Osteoporosis is a degenerative disease of the skeletal system. It can be described as atrophy of the bone tissue causing the bones to become fragile and susceptible to fracture.
While there is no single cause for osteoporosis, several risk factors have been identified. There is also no cure for Osteoporosis but there are methods of treatment and prevention that have proven to be effective.
In general the most prominent risk factors for osteoporosis such as sex, age and race are uncontrollable and the less controllable factors include disease and medications. There is however several factors related to lifestyle that can be modified to aid in the reduction of the risk of osteoporosis. Since calcium is vital to overall bone health it plays a significant role in osteoporosis. Calcium alone cannot prevent or cure osteoporosis, yet it remains an integral part of overall prevention and treatment plans.
What Calcium Does
To understand how calcium fits in with osteoporosis one must know the role of calcium in the body and how bones work. Calcium combines with other minerals to form bones and teeth, it is the calcium that makes them hard and strong so they are able to resist decay and breaks. Getting enough calcium in childhood and adolescence is needed to develop normal healthy bones.
Up until about the age of thirty bone mass is built and stored effectively. As we age we all begin to lose bone mass, the bones are being lost faster than they can be replaced which can lead to osteoporosis. So if a good amount of bone mass has been accumulated then the effects of natural aging and loss of bone mass will not be as devastating. This is why adequate calcium intake is so important.
Up to ninety nine percent of the total calcium in the body is stored in the bones. If not enough calcium is taken in the body will remove calcium from the bones thus making them weaker. It is the calcium in the bones that make them strong. Calcium is needed throughout the body to hold cells together, allow nerves to send messages, to stop blood loss from injury and for heart and muscle functions.
The body must receive an adequate amount of calcium intake in order to grow and repair bones, replace that which is lost through urine and feces and to keep the proper level of calcium in the blood.
Studies show that less than half of Americans are taking in the recommended amount of calcium to build and maintain healthy bones. In doing so the risk of osteoporosis can be reduced. The amount of calcium needed varies with age. Children aged 4 and up need between 800-1200 mg a day, Adolescents and young adults need about 1200-1500 mg a day, older adults, especially women should get about 1500 mg per day.
An adequate amount of calcium can usually be obtained through good dietary sources. Supplements are also available for those who cannot tolerate dairy or have trouble absorbing calcium.