Calcium: Not Just Your Mother’s Vitamin

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Last month, my mother’s doctor asked her a medical question that caught her off-guard.  She asked if I, her daughter, was getting enough calcium.  Over the years, her doctors have done a great job of encouraging her to take calcium supplements, but this is the first time that their inquiries had ever extended beyond my mother’s healthcare.  

Although this was surprising, I’m so glad that this conversation started because it turns out that getting enough calcium in your 20s is critical.  We all know that kids need calcium to grow strong bones, and most of us have heard that women over fifty need to ensure their calcium intake is high enough to stave off osteoporosis, but what about everything in between?  

The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS) notes that bone mass peaks around the age of 30, so maintaining a healthy diet and and exercising can help to ensure that your bone density is as high as possible at its peak.  

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AAOS recommends that 19 – 50 year olds intake at least 1,000 mg of calcium per day without exceeding 2,500 mg as too much calcium can cause its own complications.  But what does that mean from a practical standpoint?  Milk, calcium-fortified orange juice, almonds, kale and bok choy are all high in calcium, but even those may not be enough.  A cup of milk alone is only one third of your daily calcium requirement, so finding a supplement that works for you can be a great way to make up the difference.  Also important to note, Vitamin D is required to absorb calcium, so you may need to take a Vitamin D supplement as well to get the suggested 1,000 IUs (AAOS).

If you’re like me, and this information is not exactly timely, remember that calcium is still important at any age.  Sustaining calcium intake is equally important to maintaining bone mass, so figure out a plan that works for you and stick with it.  And pass this information along to others…  Half the battle is educating the younger generation of the importance of calcium through their thirties and beyond so they can have healthy bones throughout their lives.

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