Osteoporosis and Calcium
By Tips to be Fit
Osteoporosis is a condition, which affects men and women. Though it usually affects the elderly it begins at around age 30 for women and age 50 for men. Osteoporosis is associated with loss of bone mineral, which results in less density and strength in bones. Normally, women have about 30% less bone than men and after menopause lose bone mass twice as fast as men. Lower levels of estrogen after menopause, chronic alcohol abuse, coffee, tea, candy, low calcium intake, lack of exercise, high levels phosphorus, which is found in soda all contribute to bone mineral loss.
Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body. Ninety-nine percent of the calcium in your body is found in your bones. Another 1% is found in your cells and blood. Calcium plays an important role in regulating your heart action, blood clotting, preventing too much acid or alkali accumulation in the blood, nerve function, muscle contraction, and relaxation. Calcium also plays a role in muscle growth, aids in the bodies utilization of iron, helps activate enzymes and regulate the passage of nutrients in and out of cells. The major function of calcium is to build and maintain bones and teeth.
Too much or too little calcium can cause problems. Increasing your calcium intake for a short period of time does not normally cause side effects. Higher amounts of calcium over a long period of time raise the risk of kidney stones. Those who do not receive enough calcium over a long period of time can develop thinning of bone tissue and loss of bone density over time.
Moderate cases of calcium deficiency may lead to cramps, joint pains, irregular heartbeat, slow pulse rates, insomnia and excessive irritability of nerves and muscles.
More severe cases of calcium deficiency can cause slow blood clotting, hemorrhaging, tooth loss, and bone ailments. A calcium deficiency in children may stunt growth and cause bone malformations. In adults, this same calcium deficiency can cause a bone malformation called osteomalacia. Another calcium deficiency ailment, osteoporosis, occurs when calcium is drawn from the bones and other areas before it is deposited in them. As a result, the bones become porous and fragile. This leads to weak brittle bones, which are more susceptible to fractures.
Many people assume that once they become an adult the bones stop growing. This is not true. Bone tissue is always dissolving and reforming. Taking preventive measures against bone loss should start early. This is true for men and women. From ages 11-18 bones grow quickly. From ages 19-24 they increase in density. To sustain and maintain growth you need 800-1500 mgs of calcium daily. Most teenagers don’t get half this requirement.
Though osteoporosis doesn’t become evident until after age 35 the groundwork for this deterioration is laid early in life if calcium requirements are not met. In women, the deficiency becomes more evident after menopause due to a decrease in estrogen levels. This coupled with the fact that women typically have 30% less bone mass then men makes women especially susceptible to osteoporosis.
To function properly calcium must be accompanied by magnesium, phosphorous and vitamins A, C, and D. Usually only 20-30% of ingested calcium supplement is absorbed.
In addition to eating foods high in calcium, you can protect your bones by performing weight-bearing exercises such as walking, jogging and lifting weights. Walking outdoors is excellent because you also get a dose of sunshine, which helps the body synthesize vitamin D.
Some medications like cortisone interfere with calcium absorption. If you’re taking medication check with your doctor to find out if you need to increase your calcium intake. Chronic alcohol abuse, coffee, tea, candy, soda pop, and excessive stress can all interfere with calcium absorption.
Oxalic acid, found in chocolate, spinach, and rhubarb, when combined with calcium makes an insoluble compound, which may cause the formation of stones in the kidney or gallbladder. These foods should not be ingested with milk.
Many people have a problem digesting dairy products. If lactaid treated dairy products do not remedy this problem you may need to incorporate calcium-fortified foods and supplements into your diet. If you can’t get in all the calcium you need through your diet make sure the supplements you take can be absorbed. To test supplements crush one into a fine powder and drop it in a glass of water. If it dissolves in the water the body will probably absorb it. Calcium-fortified drinks are usually readily absorbed.
Calcium alone will not prevent or treat osteoporosis. Exercise stimulates bone strength. Bones weaken when you don’t exercise. This applies to both men and women. Regular exercise helps to build bone mass and density. If you’ve never exercised before, find a beginner exercise group. A professional can help you get started. If you want to give it a try on your own, start a walking program. Walk every other day. Do callisthenic exercises on the day you don’t walk. Do at least one exercise for each body part. Start your program slowly and be consistent. Keep a diary to keep track of your progress. After a few months, you may want to get into weight training.
There are at least 20 bone-building nutrients that include calcium which are essential to good bone health and are essential in that our bodies cannot produce them. This means we must get them from our food and drink.
Before starting your fitness program, consult your physician.
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