By Rebecca Mason, RD
May is National Osteoporosis Month. Osteoporosis is when your body loses too much bone, makes too little bone or a combination of both—resulting in weak and brittle bones. Test your knowledge and learn how you can keep your bones strong by taking our quiz below. Don’t worry, this isn’t a pop quiz for a grade—I’m providing you with the correct answers and helpful information to go along with each topic.
- The most important factor in preventing osteoporosis is:
- Calcium intake
- Weight-bearing exercise
- Vitamin D
- Muscle-strengthening exercise
- All of the above
Answer: 5. All of the above!
A diet with adequate amounts of calcium and vitamin D, as well as weight-bearing and muscle-strengthening exercise are essential elements in building and maintaining ideal bone mass.
- The body is capable of making its own calcium.
Answer: 2. False.
Our bodies require an external source of calcium, which is absorbed in our stomach. Calcium needs to be replenished regularly, as we only absorb about 30 to 40percent of the mineral, and losses occur constantly through urination and digestive processes.
- It’s difficult to get enough calcium in the diet if you don’t consume dairy products.
Answer: 2. False.
The recommended daily allowance of calcium is 1,000 to 1,200 milligrams per day, depending on age, sex, pregnancy, lactation or menopause. While dairy products are major food contributors of calcium to the diet, foods like sardines, canned salmon, chia seeds, calcium-fortified orange juice, certain brands of tofu, calcium-fortified cereal and leafy greens provide our bodies with calcium, too. While it’s best to provide your body with calcium from food first, supplements can provide additional calcium if your diet is lacking. Supplements, such as calcium carbonate or calcium citrate, are absorbed equally well when taken with food; however calcium carbonate contains the most calcium. Because calcium absorption is most optimal in doses equal to or less than 500 milligrams, make sure to split your doses to 500 milligrams twice daily, or postpone your supplement when consuming calcium-rich foods. Also make sure to check your labels and make sure that the supplement meets United States Pharmacopeia (USP) standards and avoid oyster shell calcium. Always check with your health care provider or pharmacist before adding a new supplement to your regimen.
- Risk factors for osteoporosis include:
- Body size
- All of the above
Answer: 5. All of the above.
Caucasian women are at greatest risk for the disease, but osteoporosis can affect anyone of any gender or race. Osteoporosis risk increases with age, as age-related bone mass decline begins in midlife. Additionally, slender, small-framed women and taller women carry an increased risk.
- Which of the following can impact your bone health?
- Excess sodium intake
- Chronic heavy drinking
- All of the above.
Answer: 5. All of the above. Urinary calcium losses increase with increased sodium intake, and studies have suggested that reducing salt intake could slow the loss of calcium from bones as we age. You should avoid smoking and if you choose to drink, do so in moderation (no more than two drinks per day for men and one for women). Physical activity can minimize age-related bone loss and also reduces risk of falling by maintaining strength and balance.
- The body needs vitamin D to absorb calcium.
Answer: 1. True. Vitamin D is needed to enhance bone cell function and to absorb calcium. Women and men under 70 need 600 international units (or IU) of vitamin D per day, and needs increase to 800 IU for those ages 71 and older. We can get vitamin D from a few foods, supplements and through sunlight. The form of vitamin D that is made in the skin, D3, is more efficient at raising our total vitamin D stores. Speak to your health care provider about your vitamin D status and supplements.
Every year osteoporosis is responsible for two million broken bones and $19 billion in related costs. Don’t let osteoporosis sneak up on you. Take preventive actions to keep your bones strong and avoid costly fractures.
About the Author: Rebecca Mason, RD, is a registered dietitian and Health and Wellness Coordinator in the Wellness Department at Priority Health. She is passionate about helping families and individuals improve their health through nutrition education and nutritious food access. Rebecca is certified in adult weight management, and has a background in both clinical nutrition and wellness programming.