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Foods That Build Bone Density

by Rebecca Chancellor

About Rebecca Chancellor

Rebecca Chancellor is a physician in North Carolina with experience in journalism since 1996. She has been published in several scientific journals including the "Journal of Clinical Oncology" and "Stroke." Chancellor has a Bachelor of Arts in biology from Swarthmore College and a Doctor of Medicine from the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

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Ten million Americans have osteoporosis, or low bone density, according to the National Institute of Aging. Low bone density weakens bones and increases your risk of bone fracture substantially. Consuming foods that build bone density and maintaining physical activity throughout your life can prevent osteoporosis. If you already have osteoporosis, these measures can help re-build your bones and decrease your risk of fracture.

Background

A bone mineral density, or BMD, test is utilized to evaluate your bone health and to determine if you are at risk for bone fractures. This test result is summarized as a T-score, which compares the ideal bone density to your bone density. A score between +1 and -1 is normal, while a score between -1 and -2.5 indicates low bone mass and a score of -2.5 or lower indicates bone density so low that it is classified as osteoporosis. Women age 65 or older, people on glucocorticoid medications, such as prednisone for two months or longer, and people whose other health conditions increase their risk of low bone density should be screened for osteoporosis.

Calcium And Bone Density

Calcium is a mineral critical to the body for production of strong bones and teeth. As your body does not produce calcium, all calcium must be obtained through your diet. Low fat dairy products, such as nonfat milk, cheese and yogurt, are excellent sources as are dark green leafy vegetables, such as broccoli and spinach. Many foods are fortified with calcium, including orange juice, cereal and bread. The amount of calcium in a fortified product can be found on the nutrition label. For a woman between the ages of 19 and 50, 1,000 milligrams per day of calcium is recommended. As your risk of low bone density increases as you get older, 1,200 milligrams per day is recommended for a woman aged 51 or older.

Vitamin D And Bone Density

Your body utilizes vitamin D to help absorb calcium. Unlike calcium, vitamin D is produced by your body as long as you obtain adequate sunlight, approximately 10 to 15 minutes twice per week. Food such as eggs, fatty fish like salmon and cereals fortified with vitamin D are excellent dietary sources. You should consume 400 international units of vitamin D if you are a woman 70 or younger, and 600 international units if you are a woman older than age 70.

Warning

While foods rich in calcium and vitamin D help to strengthen bones and increase your bone density, excess vitamins can be harmful. You are unlikely to consume vitamins in excess from your diet alone, but should be cautious if you are also taking supplementation in pill form. You should not consume more than 2,500 milligrams of calcium or 2,000 international units of vitamin D on most days unless instructed by your physician.

Considerations

A diet rich in calcium and vitamin D is more effective when combined with physical activity. Bones and muscles can be strengthened by weight-bearing exercise three or four times per week. Walking, jogging and playing tennis are good examples. If you have osteoporosis, or a very low bone density, medications will likely be recommended, as well, to stop the breakdown of bones and help to increase your bone density more quickly.

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This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.