Role of Calcium in Preserving the Skeletal Health of Aging Women



During the years from adolescence through senescence, the skeleton passes through identifiable phases: consolidation, maturity, menopause, and senescence. Skeletal dynamics and calcium requirements are different during each phase. An adult woman can avoid the skeletal deterioration caused by calcium deficiency if she maintains a minimum daily calcium intake of 800 mg. Increased calcium intake will not increase skeletal mass in mature, premenopausal women and will not prevent bone loss in postmenopausal women. Because intestinal absorption decreases with age, daily calcium intake of 1000 to 1200 mg is recommended for the elderly. Women can increase their dietary calcium intake in various ways, including increasing intake of dairy products, eating calcium-rich nondairy foods, purchasing foods fortified with calcium, and, if all other methods prove inadequate, using calcium supplements. Physicians must prescribe calcium only after learning what is needed for a particular woman's skeletal health by determining that woman's stage of skeletal development and approximate calcium intake; if intake is insufficient, it should be adjusted to the level appropriate at that stage.

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