Osteoporosis The Role of Calcium and Vitamin D

Submitted by Shannon Laesch, APRN, Select Care PLLC

Osteoporosis, a condition where the bones become brittle and fragile, is often called a “silent disease” because it usually progresses without any symptoms until a fracture occurs or one or more vertebrae collapse. Collapsed vertebrae may first be felt or seen when a person develops severe back pain, loss of height, or spine malformations such as a stooped or hunched posture. Bones affected by osteoporosis may become so fragile that fractures occur spontaneously or as the result of minor bumps, falls, or normal stresses and strains such as bending, lifting, or even coughing.

Even though Osteoporosis is considered to be a global public health problem and is estimated to affect half of all Americans over age 50, it is not a natural and unavoidable part of aging. In fact, most medical experts now believe that osteoporosis is largely preventable by leading a healthy lifestyle that includes proper nutrition and exercise. Let’s first discuss the role of Calcium as it is the most important nutrient for preventing osteoporosis.

Bone is living tissue that contains a lot of calcium. The amount of calcium that makes up your bones is the measure of how strong they are. To keep bones strong, your body constantly breaks down old bone tissue and replaces it with new bone tissue. But calcium is also needed for the heart, muscles, and nerves to work properly and for blood to clot normally. If your body does not get enough calcium from the foods you eat, then it simply “steals” calcium from your bones.

It’s important to understand that calcium and Vitamin D go hand in hand. No matter how much calcium you consume, it cannot be absorbed and processed by the body without an adequate supply of vitamin D. Vitamin D is made in the skin after exposure to sunlight. It is difficult to get enough vitamin D from diet alone as only a few foods naturally contain significant amounts of vitamin D. Foods fortified with vitamin D, such as milk and cereals, are a major dietary source. Good sources of calcium include low-fat dairy products; dark green leafy vegetables, and calcium-fortified foods such as orange juice, cereals, and breads.

Calcium needs change during your lifetime. The body’s demand for calcium is greater during childhood and adolescence when the skeleton is growing rapidly. As people get older, vitamin D production decreases—especially for people who are housebound, and during the winter—and your body becomes less efficient at absorbing calcium and other nutrients. In addition, bones often can’t make new bone fast enough to keep up with the bone that is lost. Older adults are also more likely to have chronic medical problems and use medications that may impair calcium absorption. For whatever reason, we know that the average calcium intake of individuals is far below the levels recommended for optimal bone health.

Preventing osteoporosis is a lifelong endeavor. Adequate amounts of calcium and vitamin D are just one important part of an osteoporosis prevention or treatment program that also includes exercise, not smoking, limiting alcohol, preventing falls, and possibly medication. If you have trouble getting enough calcium in your diet, you may need to take a calcium supplement. But always work with your doctor or health care professional to determine if a calcium supplement is needed as too much calcium can cause other health problems. Individuals who consume adequate amounts of calcium and vitamin D throughout life are more likely to achieve optimal skeletal mass early in life and are less likely to lose bone later in life.


        Shannon Laesch is an Advanced Practice Nurse and is board-certified as an Adult Health Clinical Nurse Specialist. She has a passion for helping patients achieve optimal bone health through multiple treatment options. She also offers IV Hydration Therapy, micronutrient, and food sensitivity testing. For more information, contact Shannon at 309-808-1450 or visit Select Care PLLC online at www.selectcarepllc.com. Her office is located at 2103 E. Washington St, Suite 2C in Bloomington.



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