Having strong and healthy bones becomes increasingly important as you get older to reduce your risk of bone-related diseases and fractures.
Why is bone health important?
The health of your bones is increasingly important as you age. Older adults often have bone loss – low bone density that makes the bones weaker – which leads to an increase risk of fractures. It’s never too early to start thinking about bone health; maximizing your bone during your younger years helps to lower fracture risk later in life.
For most people, the amount of bone tissue in the skeleton (known as bone mass) peaks by their late twenties. Bones reach their maximum strength and density – up to 90 percent of peak bone mass – by 18 in girls and age 20 in boys. This makes your youth the best time to “invest” in your bone health.
Age 1 – 8: The amount of calcium deposited in the bones increases as the bones grow and lengthen. Bones absorb the calcium more effectively than any other time of life. For effective bone growth and development, vitamin D intake is also important. Calcium is required for teeth development and growth and maintenance – primary teeth develop and appear.
Age 9 – 18: The amount of calcium deposited increases as the bones lengthen. Bones absorb the calcium more effectively than any other time of life. Calcium is required for maintaining healthy new permanent teeth.
Adequate calcium intake and maximizing bone stores during the time when bone is rapidly deposited (up to age 30) provide an important foundation for the future. This may not prevent bone loss later in life. The loss of bone by aging is caused by several factors, including genetic factors, physical inactivity, and lower levels of circulating hormones (oestrogen in women and testosterone in men).
Age 19 – 30: Bone production exceeds bone destruction, therefore it is critical to maintain calcium deposits, especially in women.
Age 30 – 50: Typically, destruction exceeds production – if calcium needs are not met by the diet, your body extracts calcium from bone. Therefore it is critical to take in enough calcium.
Age 50 – 70: Decrease in oestrogen (menopause) or testosterone causes calcium to be extracted from bone at a higher rate. Therefore, it is critical to take in enough calcium.
What form of calcium is better?
The best form of calcium is from food!
Foods such as dairy products contain other essential nutrients in addition to calcium which are important for both bone and overall health. However, it can be difficult to get all your calcium from food. For an adult to obtain the amount of calcium required daily, an individual would need to consume 4 cups of milk, nearly a whole can of pilchards, or 14 cups of broccoli. Dairy intolerance might also hinder you to consume enough calcium rich foods.
How do I know if I am at risk of low bone density?
Some risk factors for low bone density are out of your control and make it especially important to change what you do have control over, including:
- Gender. Women are much more likely to develop low bone density than men.
- Age. The older you get, the greater your risk of a decrease in bone density.
- Family history. Having a parent or sibling with a tendency towards low bone density puts you at greater risk, especially if your mother or father experienced a hip fracture.
- Body frame size. Men and women who have small body frames lend to have a higher risk. This is because they may have less bone mass to start off with from which the body can draw calcium from, as they age.
The best supplement form of calcium.
Calcium carbonate contains the largest quantity of elemental calcium, calcium citrate in second in line. Calcium carbonate is 40% elemental calcium by weight while calcium citrate is = 20% calcium (thus a 500 mg pill of calcium carbonate contains 200 mg of calcium and a 500 mg pill of calcium citrate contains 100 mg of calcium). Therefore, calcium in the calcium carbonate form is an ideal practical form of calcium for a healthy individual. However calcium carbonate needs an acidic pH in order to dissolve and be absorbed. Calcium citrate, on the other hand can be absorbed in a wider range of pH. Consequently, for individuals who need to take anti-acids regularly or have a chronic condition resulting in decreased stomach acid production, calcium citrate compounds are the better choice.