Maintaining bone health is essential for an active lifestyle and combating the onset of osteoporosis (OP). OP is the thinning and weakening of your bones which results in a high chance of them breaking. In fact, after a break is when most Canadians realize they have the disease. OP is a serious concern for many middle-aged Canadians. About 1.4 million Canadians have OP affecting 1 in 4 women and 1 in 8 men over the age of 50. Most guidelines suggest adequate calcium intake as an integral part of the prevention and treatment of OP.
Basic bone health for individuals over the age of 50 includes:
- Regular active weight bearing exercise
- Calcium intake (through diet and supplements combined) of 1200mg daily
- Vitamin D intake of 600-2000IU through diet and supplementation
- Fall prevention strategies such as using proper body mechanics, avoiding risky situations (ie. slippery bathtub, loose throw carpets, slippery socks, lack of hand rails) or engaging in fall prevention exercise programs with physiotherapists or occupational therapists
Healthy lifestyle choices such as minimal alcohol intake, not smoking, maintaining a healthy body weight and reducing caffeine intake also contribute to your bone health. Speak to your health care practitioner about calculating your individual risk for OP.
The best food sources for calcium are in dairy products and but can also be found in lower levels in other types of legumes, vegetables and grains. Visit Osteoporosis Canada’s Calcium Calculator to determine how much calcium you’re getting from your diet. If you are not able to achieve the recommended daily intake from diet alone, consider talking with your health care practitioner about supplementation.
Vitamin D assists in the absorption of calcium and is also essential for the prevention of osteoporosis. Small amounts of vitamin D can be found in our diet as well as sunlight exposure. The amount of sun exposure should be limited, however, due to the risk of skin cancer. For most Canadians, supplementation with vitamin D is required in order to meet recommended serum levels.
A well-rounded diet, including adequate calcium and vitamin D, is the best way to promote healthy bones in children. Clinical trials have proven daily physical activity supports children’s bone health. There is particular concern that adolescents, especially girls, are not meeting their daily calcium and vitamin D needs. For children and adolescents that do not consume the recommended two servings of dairy per day, parents may consider speaking with a health care professional about an appropriate calcium supplement.