Monday, 16 June 2014

Bone Health

You have probably heard many different things about bones and how to keep them strong. Your parents likely told you to drink your milk, and your physician may have instructed you to take calcium, or vitamin D supplements. We all hear that bones need calcium and vit D to be strong...but why? Are supplements better? Is milk the only cure? How much do we need? (Please note: I am not in any position to give individual medical advice because I am not aware of your personal health and needs. Please contact your medical team for definitive advice that will be tailored to you! This blog is not a substitute for medical attention).

First, let me give you some background information on bones. Structurally, they are made of calcium and phosphorus, with some magnesium. Two hormones control calcium levels in the body: PTH from the parathyroid glands, and calcitonin from the thyroid gland. This is not necessary to know, but I will include it here so that if you are interested, you can look for more information. Now, you must understand that calcium is important for other processes in the body as well, such as muscle contraction, hormone release, and more. Thus, our bodies need to ensure that blood calcium, levels are not too high nor too low - they must be just right. When the calcium levels get too low, PTH is released. PTH acts on the bone to release calcium from bones, thus making more calcium available in the blood. This is important because we just learned that our bodies need calcium, levels to stay just right for normal processes. BUT PTH breaks down the bone to release this calcium into the blood. So, if you don't have enough calcium, PTH will break down the bone to ensure calcium levels are stable.

This is largely why we need to ensure that we are eating enough calcium, in our diets. If we don't, PTH causes the bone to break down, thus weakening our bones and depriving them from the calcium that makes them sturdy and strong. How much calcium do we need? People over the age of 18 generally need around 1000 mg a day, while women over 50 and males over 70 need 1200 mg a day. Children typically need 1300 mg a day. The picture has some sources of calcium and how much they contain.

When women reach menopause, changes in hormones occur - namely, estrogen and progesterone drop. This causes many changes, but for the sake of this post, we will focus on what it does to the bones. Estrogen and progesterone maintain bone health in females. So, when they drop at menopause. women are at greater risk for osteoporosis. By the way, osteoporosis is when the bones are no longer as strong as they should be, characterized by decreased bone mass density. This puts them at greater risk for fractures as well. This is why females really need to ensure they consume enough calcium!

Supplements are often needed because the modern day diet doesn't contain enough calcium. There are SO many different calcium supplements out there, so please speak to your physician and/or pharmacist before taking one. You should ensure that you need the supplement, as too much calcium is not desirable either. Also, calcium pills should generally be taken two to four hours within other medications because they can impair the absorption of other medications.

Equally important is vit D, which is needed in the intestines for calcium, to be absorbed. This is why you will hear that vit D and calcium, are needed together. We need about 600 IU of vit D a day, which is VERY hard to get from the diet alone. Vit D is not very plentiful in foods except for some fish and fortified dairy products or orange juice. Vit D supplements can also be taken, and they are usually very small pills (which is nice, b3cause calcium pills are usually big!). Again, talk to your medical team before taking any supplements.

I hope that clarified some myths or questions some of you had about bones and calcium! As usual, I am open to researching or providing any information about health or mental health, etc that you are curious about, so let me know. Being a nursing student has made me that much more interested in these topics, so please ensure that you are informed!  In the end of the day, ensure you are getting enough calcium for your needs, as this is extremely important for bone health and will prevent future complications such as osteoporosis, falls, fractures, and more. Remember, a healthy life begins with a healthy mind and a healthy body!

44 comments:

  1. I am strong if my bones are strong

    Magaly

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  2. Marina I am only 47 but lactose intolerant and my doctor diagnosed me with osteoporosis and asked me to take 5000 vit D3 daily and 2 gm. calcium daily. Do you think this high dose.
    My daughter is eating well now and her body is good ,do you think needs to take vit D and calcium??
    Thanks a lot for your support since I ever come across this wonderful blog.

    JP( a thankful mother)

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    Replies
    1. Hi JP,
      Remember that I cannot give out definite medical advice, so please see a doctor to help you decide what is best for you.
      That being said, many of us, even without ED, do not get enough calcium and vit D in our diet. What is helpful is to keep track of how much your daughter takes and then see if it matches with what she needs. If it doesn't, you can try adding in natural sources (ex. milk) first, and then if that doesn't work, adding a supplement with the help of a doctor.

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  3. Thank God I love milk and I take it with each meal

    Jenn
    Welland

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  4. Marina when I was inpatient treatment program had bone mineral test and I was diagnosed of osteoporosis and my number was minus 2 and I was put on 2000units vitamin D and Calcium 1500 gram daily but since I left I am eating well .Do you think I need to continue taking(my G P said yes ).

    Anne

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    Replies
    1. Hi Anne,
      Remember that I cannot give out definite medical advice, so please see a doctor to help you decide what is best for you.
      I would say that you should still take your supplements, especially if your doc said yes. It is best not to stop taking things like medications suddenly because your body very well might still need it. You can also try adding more calcium and vit D in your diet, which will help a lot!

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    2. Thanks Marina.
      You are helpful than calling my doctor's office

      Anne

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  5. I never had my bones tested ,should I get one?. I am eating well and active and happier thanks to Marina

    Nanaraj

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    Replies
    1. Hi Nanaraj,
      Remember that I cannot give out definite medical advice, so please see a doctor to help you decide what is best for you.
      That being said, if there is no reason to suspect that your bones may be suffering, you don't need a scan. They aren't ordered unless there is suspicion of bone loss or weakness. If you are eating well - and you are, and I am SO proud of you - then you may not need supplements or a bone scan.

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  6. Being a nurse and also knowledgeable person and has personal health experience your blog is one of the most respected blog when it comes to health and life and you are giving an advise that is well searched and according the best evidence available .
    I am as a politician take my hat off for you.

    Jack

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  7. You gone moan and groan if you do not take care of your bone.

    Sally

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  8. our backbone is the core and backbone of our health and life. If we have strong backbone(among all our bones) We can build our health and good life on it
    Bones are the foundations of health.

    Anastashia

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  9. Hi Marina
    I has severe ragweed allergy and my doctor referred me to allergist and his first question ,are you taking vitamin D and how much. He told me vitamin D lowers risk of allergy and may prevent allergy and improve immune system and mental health.
    Your post supports this and I trust any thing I read on this blog since I became a friend

    Razan

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  10. Taking care of bones make you strong.

    Cindrella

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  11. What a helpful post to make me making sure my bones are healthy.

    Shady

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  12. That is very helpful for us

    Zak

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  13. You encouraging me to look after my muscles and bones.

    Rana

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  14. I appreciate this post among all your blog especially the way you search for info.

    Sebastian

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  15. I was just reading a brochure from my doctor's office and I felt this little post even more helpful


    Sandre

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  16. As long as We eating well and active and either daily sun exposure or vitamin D supplement we should be o k ...Right Marina ??


    Suhana

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    Replies
    1. Right Suhana! However, sometimes even with a healthy diet, we may not be getting of certain vitamins and minerals, etc. If you keep track of your diet, you can see if you are lacking in something or not. Generally, though, a healthy diet that is balanced will be sufficient!

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    2. It is nice that you replied to my question.
      Thanks Marina

      Suhana

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  17. To let you know I liked this post as after several investigation of my chronic fatigue my doc told me your vitamin D is very low and since I am taking vitamin D pills I am feeling much better.

    Marina you are a GEM !!!

    Lillian

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  18. Before becoming Christian I used to smoke heavily and drink lots and so I was told by my doctor when I was just 60 my bones are fragile and at any time I could break a bone and so I have been using Actonel since then and taking calcium and vitamin D as you mentioned here Marina. God has changed me and no alcohol or smoke and I am feeling good.

    Sam Ibrahim
    Burnhamthorpe,Mississauga

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  19. This is very helpful for me as I am lactose intolerant.
    Thanks Marina

    Kapoor

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  20. It is always good to smile while having a glass of milk(not booze)

    Gerry

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  21. I have strong bones because I love all those foods you listed here.

    Maritza

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  22. Hi Marina
    This is a very important post to me as it took me about 2 years after my complete recovery without relapse to confirm that my bones are normal.I had weak bones and I was feeling aches all over my bones,however I was offered estrogen pills even I was not sexually active but I declined this and took calcium and vitamin D and all those foods you mentioned and here I am enjoying strong bones.


    Recovered ED survivor

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  23. I understand from you much better than my family doctor.
    You write in very simple way and very articualte .

    Shiela Ketson

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  24. Muscles or bones which one is stronger

    Pyuish

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    Replies
    1. Pyuish, it is hard to say! Bones are made of different materials than muscles. Muscles are proteins. Bones are calcium, phosphate, and other inorganic materials. Both are strong in their own terms - and both important for a strong and healthy body! Good thinking!

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    2. I was not expected any reply but I appreciate your reply and it makes sense .
      Thanks again

      Pyuish

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  25. I do have strong muscles and so this means I do have strong bones yay

    Cindrella

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  26. Thank you for this post and food items and how much calcium it contains as one need to know if getting enough.

    Rodica

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  27. I wish you could list foods that contain vitamin D or how much We exposure our skin to the sun daily to get enough of it.
    My uncle 64 had unexplained leg weakness and meticulously tested and the only thing was abnormal was his vitamin D was 15_normal between 100-125)
    His specialist is giving 50,000 vitamin D injection weekly!!!
    He is much better now and tells every body take vitamin D.

    With my humble respect

    Muhammad

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  28. Very good summary to understand bone health and role of supplement
    Well done.

    Nagy

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  29. I agree with all said here and I tell you recently most authorities recommend Vitamin D 1000-3000 units to help prevent osteoporosis,cancer,diabetes,dementia and enhance immune system and prevent viral infections as flu like illness.

    Regards to Marina credible information on her blog and her published book.

    Penny
    Med student

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  30. Very pleased with this post and the discussions.

    S K

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  31. I bet I am very low in my calcium as I am lactose intolerant


    Saroosh

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  32. Really good post


    Philana

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  33. Healthy eating ,exercise and good sleep keeps our bones strong and well.
    You are right Marina

    Svetlana

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  34. I am getting depot injection every 3 months for birth control and doctors said I have take calcium 2 g and vit D 2000 daily

    Naomi

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