So my Dexa scan results came back and I have borderline osteopenia which means that my bone mineral density is lower than “normal” for a woman of my age. My doctor has recommended calcium and vitamin D supplements, told me to drink Super Milk and to take weight-bearing exercise every day for thirty minutes and have a repeat scan in 18 months.
I recently started taking vitamin D in a spray during the winter months, already use Super Milk and walk nearly every day, now that I no longer play tennis. So what else can I do and what about calcium supplements?
There is a huge amount of information out there, much of it conflicting and it is difficult to find the right advice.
First of all, calcium supplements come in for some bad press. Some critics consider them ineffective and they are also associated with some serious health risks. A report in The British Medical Journal in 2012 found that those who used calcium supplements had a significantly greater risk of heart attack. According to some, long-term use can also cause kidney stones. However, other studies point to the benefits, particularly if the users are over fifty years of age. It is important that if you have been recommended calcium supplements that you do your research. If you take supplements and eat calcium-fortified foods, you may be getting more calcium than you realise or need.
One of the most interesting articles by Dr Robert Thompson, author of ‘The Calcium Lie’, emphasised the importance of vitamin K2 found in grass-fed animal products, in helping to move calcium into where it’s needed (bones and teeth) and taking it from where it shouldn’t be (arteries and soft tissue). This vitamin is found in eggs and cheese, particularly Brie.
According to this doctor, calcium, vitamins D and K2 along with magnesium (found in spinach, seeds and nuts) work synergistically to promote strong healthy bones. He also recommends Himalayan Rock Salt as one of the best sources of a wide variety of trace minerals.
So I am not going to change anything for the moment. I have decided to continue getting my calcium from my foods. An adult needs about 1,000 milligrams a day and at my age about 1,200 a day. You can get calcium from many different foods and not just dairy products. So if you are dairy-free, there is no need to worry. Fortified soy almond and coconut milks are good. Kale and collard greens contain high amounts of calcium as do broccoli and watercress. Almonds are the biggies in the nut world and almond butter gives you the same benefits. Salmon and tuna are also good sources, particularly the tinned variety. If you want more information on the calcium content of foods look at www.iofbonehealth.org/osteoporosis-musculoskeletal-disorder, courtesy of the International Osteoporosis Foundation.
I will continue to exercise as normal, but I will look into using weights at home. Seemingly, a Power Plate is a simple and effective way to get weight-bearing exercise, but I know nothing about them. There is only one type available in Ireland as far as I can see.
So my advice is to do your research. No matter what age you are, you need to think about your bones!
I am fortunate in that I have only borderline osteopenia and I can control it with my diet mainly. The important point is that whatever way you are getting your calcium, you need to ensure you are getting vitamins D and K2 and magnesium also, otherwise you are not going to absorb the calcium. So if you are not getting enough from your food, then perhaps you need supplements. Knowledge is power!