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How can I get enough vitamin D and calcium to help prevent osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis affects more women than men: about 80% of the 10 million Americans with osteoporosis are women. That's why it's especially important for women to exercise throughout life and get enough bone-building calcium and vitamin D. Some multivitamins supply relatively little calcium -- typically only 40 mg to 160 mg, which is far below the daily requirement of 1,000 mg to 1,200 mg. And depending on your age, standard multivitamins may or may not meet your vitamin D needs, which increase as you get older. Vitamin and mineral supplements formulated for women usually supply more, although not all, of your daily calcium requirements and may have additional vitamin D, too. Although dietary sources of calcium and vitamin D are best, supplements can help make up the difference. You need 1,000 mg of calcium daily if you're between 19 and 50 years old, and 1,200 mg of calcium after that. As for vitamin D, some experts advise getting 1,000 IU from the diet, from sunshine (which makes vitamin D), or supplements.

One of the most important ways to prevent osteoporosis is to make sure you get the daily recommended amounts of calcium and vitamin D.  Calcium is good for your bones. But you also need vitamin D to help your body better absorb the calcium.

If you are age 18 to 50, you need 1,000 milligrams of calcium per day. Women age 50 and older should get 1,200 milligrams every day. Men age 70 and older should also get that increased amount.

It's best to get calcium through your diet. Milk and dairy products aren't your only choice. Calcium is found in:

  • Dark green leafy vegetables, such as kale and collard greens
  • Soy products, such as tofu
  • Orange juice

If you have trouble getting enough calcium through your diet, calcium supplements may be an option. Be sure to keep tabs on how much calcium you take. Too much can lead to heart problems and kidney stones. 

Your body can soak in vitamin D through sunlight, but most people don't get enough of it this way. You can boost your body's level of vitamin D with daily supplements or foods rich in the nutrient. Good food sources of vitamin D are:

  • Wild-caught salmon or mackerel
  • Cod liver oil
  •  Milk or yogurt

Adults under age 70 should get 600 international units (IU) of vitamin D per day. Older adults should get 800 IU. Your doctor can and should measure your vitamin D level.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.