Calcium and vitamin D are frequently touted for their ability to improve bone health. While consuming foods rich in vitamin D and calcium is especially important for aging women, both vitamin D and calcium also help to keep the body strong and vital at any age.
Calcium and vitamin D help fight bone loss, and not just in older women. Younger, active women need them to prevent stress fractures and other bone injuries. A 2008 study reviewed the health of 5,000 female U.S.
Navy recruits, and those who did not take additional calcium and vitamin D were 25 percent more likely to suffer a stress fracture. A stress fracture is a small fracture of a bone caused by repeated physical strain. Gymnasts, runners and even marching soldiers can suffer such fractures even if they are otherwise healthy.
Calcium is also needed for other parts of the body. The National Institutes of Health Osteoporosis and Related Bone Diseases National Resource Center says calcium is necessary for the heart, muscles and nerves to function properly. It also helps blood to clot. Furthermore, pregnant women need ample calcium in their diets to supply calcium to a growing fetus. If a pregnant woman does not get enough calcium through diet, the baby will draw it from mom's own bones, threatening the mother's health while leading to bone fragility and increasing her risk of fractures.
Calcium and vitamin D work in conjunction. Although a balanced diet may provide enough calcium, many times high levels of salt and protein in one's diet can increase calcium excretion through the kidneys. Also, people who have an intolerance to lactose may not be getting the calcium they need. Vitamin D is necessary for the body to absorb calcium. Without it, a woman cannot produce enough calcitriol, impairing calcium absorption from her diet. In turn, the body will take calcium from stores in existing bone, weakening them and preventing the formation of strong, new bone.
Women who may have been deficient in vitamin D and calcium can develop osteoporosis and other bone-loss conditions as they age. Thanks to osteoporosis, half of all women over the age of 50 will have a fracture of the hip, wrist, or vertebra during their lifetime, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. A drop in estrogen at the time of menopause can contribute to bone loss. Drinking large amounts of alcohol, maintaining a low body weight and smoking can each cause osteoporosis.
In order to maintain bone and body health, there are certain dietary intake recommendations regarding calcium and vitamin D. Adults under age 50 should consume between 1,000 and 1,300 milligrams of calcium and roughly 600 IU of vitamin D daily. Calcium can be found in dairy products as well as in salmon, shellfish, brazil nuts, dried beans, and green, leafy vegetables. Vitamin D is found in fish, eggs and fortified milk. Vitamin D can also form when the body is exposed to sunlight. Even as few as 10 minutes of daily exposure to sunlight can produce vitamin D.
Consuming enough calcium and vitamin D can help a woman's body stay healthy as she ages.
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