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Calcium is crucial for building bone. A lack of calcium in the diet can therefore contribute to the development of osteoporosis and an increased risk of fractures. It’s important to get enough calcium each day, preferably from food sources like dairy products, green leafy vegetables, and fortified foods like cereals, soy milks and orange juice. Our bodies cannot produce calcium, so if we don’t get enough, the body takes it from our bones. If you cannot get enough calcium from foods, consider taking supplements. Women age 50 and younger need 1,000 mg daily; those 51 and older need 1,200 mg. Men 70 and younger need 1000 mg daily, and those 71 and older need 1,200 mg.
Vitamin D is also important to building bone. Without enough vitamin D, the body can’t absorb enough calcium from the diet to prevent osteoporosis. Vitamin D is available through sunlight, food and supplements. Your skin makes vitamin D from the sun’s ultra-violet light. The few foods that contain vitamin D include fatty fish like wild-caught mackerel, salmon and tuna, as well as fortified milk, orange juice, soymilk and cereals.
However, many Americans don’t get enough vitamin D, particularly if they don’t spend much time in the sun or live in colder, northern climates. Your doctor can give you a blood test to determine if you are vitamin D deficient. Men and women under age 50 need 400 to 800 IU of vitamin D daily; those over 50 need 800 to 1,000 IU daily. The Institute of Medicine (IOM) says the safe upper limit of vitamin D is 4,000 IU per day for most adults, though some experts say it’s safe to take more. Talk to your doctor if you think you may be vitamin D deficient.
People who have anorexia are at higher risk of osteoporosis, because their low food intake reduces the amount of calcium they ingest. It’s also important to limit alcohol consumption, as more than two drinks daily increases your risk of osteoporosis.