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May is Osteoporosis Awareness Month, Break the Statistics not the Bones!

Megan Boe, Dietetic Intern NDSU Extension Service

One in two women and up to one in four men age 50 and older will fracture a bone due to osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a disease where the bones become weak and brittle. Weakened bones are more susceptible to fractures even from simple everyday activities. When older adults break bones, they may experience consequences including chronic pain, decreased mobility or complications resulting from surgery to fix the fracture. Eventually, they may need long-term care placement. Financial consequences occur with osteoporosis. Some of these consequences include medical bills and lost wages due to the inability to work.

Osteoporosis is a silent disease; you won’t feel your bones weakening. Usually people get diagnosed with osteoporosis after they fracture a bone. What can you do to prevent or delay the onset of osteoporosis? Some of the uncontrollable risk factors include age, gender, family history and a low body weight. Controllable factors include lifestyle choices such as diet, activity and weight management. To reduce your risk for osteoporosis focus on the controllable risk factors.

Be sure to get enough of these nutrients related to bone health:

  • Calcium: a mineral that helps obtain optimal bone health, helps with muscle contraction/movement, and communication between nerves. Most of the calcium in our bodies is in our bones and teeth. When there is not enough calcium in the diet, calcium is removed from your bones. Overtime this will lead to decreased bone density which increases your risk for osteoporosis.
  • Vitamin D: a vitamin that plays an essential role in bone health. Calcium needs vitamin D to be absorbed in the body.

How much calcium and vitamin D are enough? The calcium recommendation for adults is 1,000 to 1,200 mg daily depending on one’s age and gender. The vitamin D recommendation for adults is 400 to 1,000 IU daily depending on age and gender. See table below for gender/age specific recommendations.

Calcium Women under 50; men 70 and younger 1,000 mg daily
Women 51 and older; men 71 and older 1,200 mg daily
Vitamin D Women and men less than 50 years old 400 to 800 IU daily
Women and men older than 50 years old 800 to 1,000 IU daily


Where can you find calcium and vitamin D?
Calcium is found in:

  • Milk
  • Yogurt
  • Cheese
  • Fortified juices, breads, and cereals
  • Collard greens
  • Broccoli
  • Kale
  • Figs
  • Oranges

Vitamin D can be found in food sources but also can be made from sunlight. Food sources include fatty fish such as salmon and tuna, eggs, and fortified milk, juice and cereals. The amount of vitamin D made by your skin is dependent on a few factors. These factors include the time of day, season, latitude and skin pigmentation. During the winter months, the production of vitamin D on our skin may be reduced or absent.

Be sure to read food labels to see how much calcium and vitamin D are present in the foods you are eating.

Finally, watch your sodium. High sodium intakes may cause more calcium to be excreted. The dietary recommendation for sodium is 2,300 mg or less a day. Sodium can be found in table salt, frozen dinners and canned goods.


Reference: National Osteoporosis Foundation

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Sponsored in part by the Sanford Health Foundation.

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