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If you’re a caregiver, you may be so focused on the basics of your daily routine and other people’s needs that you forget your own. But as you remind your children to drink their milk and deal with an elderly loved one’s fragile bones, don’t forget to take care of yourself! Calcium plays a role in reducing blood pressure and lowering the risk of hypertension, and it may protect against heart disease and some cancers, but it’s the star of the show when it comes to strong bones.
Healthy bones look something like a sponge: If you look at bone tissue under a microscope, you’ll see a dense network of holes, but the overall effect is one of solidity. Osteoporosis is a disease where bones lose mass and density; under a microscope, these bones have the delicate look of a spider’s web. Such fragile bones don’t provide adequate support—in some cases, even standing is enough for bones to break. Osteoporosis has been linked to 1.5 million fractures per year in the US alone, and as many as 40 million adults in the United States have or are at risk for this disease.
The human body builds bone mass through the early 20s, but as we age, we typically don’t replenish the calcium in our bones as quickly as we use it. Over time, we lose bone mass, but getting enough calcium can help slow the rate of bone loss. In the first decade after menopause, women lose three to five percent of their bone mass per year, so adequate intake is especially important to women over 50.
Are you at risk for low bone density? Many of the factors that affect your risk are beyond your control (sex, age, race, build and family history), so if you are female, older, white or Asian, or small-framed, or if you have a parent or sibling with osteoporosis, it’s especially important to address the factors you can control.
Nutrition is an incredibly complicated science, and here’s one example: Calcium isn’t the only factor in the strong-bone equation. Magnesium and vitamin D help your body to absorb and process calcium. Few foods are high in vitamin D (our skin synthesizes it from exposure to sunlight). Check out the list at right for foods high in calcium and magnesium. If your diet is low in these nutrients, or if you're homebound and it's hard for you to get outdoors, speak to your doctor about supplements.
To find out how VNSNY can help you care for your family member, please call 1-800-675-0391.
Looking for ways to boost your calcium intake? Here's how much you'll net from the following foods, in milligrams:
1 cup (8 oz) of:
1.5 ounces of:
3 ounces of:
½ cup of: