Women & Bone Health: Why I Take Calcium

Last summer, this happened:

photo 2

I broke my left 4th metacarpal playing this “children’s” sport:

For those of you who weren’t loyal blog readers yet this time last year, a ball came hurtling towards my face from point blank range during a fateful dodgeball match…I threw up my hands to protect da moneymaker, and the ball shattered my left hand. I instantly knew something was wrong, it wasn’t so much painful as much as it was…discomforting. Something definitely felt out of place. And I was right!

In February (about 4-5 months after getting my cast off), I made my triumphant return to dodgeball.

Though a lot of people thought I was crazy (Hi Mom), dodgeball played a key part in making my post-college life bearable. When I started playing dodgeball, I had few friends left here at home, was living at my parents house, and working an unpaid internship 16 hours a week…that was all I had going for me. Dodgeball gave me a social life, new friends, my first serious relationship, and best of all…I’m pretty good at it! :)

So back I went, and back I’ve stayed. However, there was a lot of risk involved in returning to this sport that had screwed me so badly just months before.

Because my hand took 10 weeks to heal instead of the normal 6-8 (and honestly, I saw my last xray– it wasn’t even completely healed when I got the OK to get my cast off), my doctor ordered a bone density test and it was determined that I have clinically low bone density, a condition that is referred to as osteopenia. I was on the very cusp of what is considered “osteopenic”, so I wasn’t prescribed any routine medication other than a daily calcium regimen.

The way a bone density test works is a machine measures the density of your hip and spine, then compares it to that of a “young, healthy adult”. This test is obviously normally ordered for women of menopause age or older…The technician at my test was shocked to see a 23 year old getting her bone density checked. The test results in a T-score…if your T-score is between -1 and -2.5 standard deviation below the norm, you have osteopenia. Any lower than 2.5 and you have osteoporosis. I was at exactly -1.1. So basically, when compared to other healthy adults of my same age, my bones are weaker.

When I discovered this, I wrote a blog post about what I thought was the culprit and some ways I planned to keep my bones healthy. My “diagnosis” was kind of a wake up call for me to forget about achieving or maintaining a “goal weight” and start thinking about getting the right nutrients. I also noted that I needed to do more weight-bearing exercise and obviously start taking calcium pills.

calcium

I only know that I have low bone density because I got a bad injury. But with more than half of Americans ages 65 and up meeting the clinical definition of having osteoporosis, it’s better to be safe than sorry when you’re in your 20’s and 30’s and your body is developing (not in the pre-pubescent way…but you know what I mean).

Check out these tips for keeping healthy bones from the US Office of Women’s Health:

1) Get enough calcium each day

The OWH recommends 1,000mg per day. My doctor (and the bone density test technician) said any calcium pill that has both calcium and vitamin D is A-OK. One of my big fat calcium pills is about 60% of my daily recommended intake. I have actually switched to a multivitamin that has 500mg, but it has all the iron and other vitamins I need as well.

silkandcho

toast
Incorporating calcium into my diet has also been key in maintaining my bone health. I switched to yogurt for breakfast and started buying almond milk (which often has more calcium than dairy milk!). The last few weeks, my breakfasts have consisted of 2 slices of toast, each with a wedge of Laughing Cow cream cheese and sometimes with a dollop of grandma’s apricot jam. (Each wedge of Laughing Cow has 10% of your daily calcium!)

2) Get enough Vitamin D each day
sunny legs

ahh! the pale! it burns =P

Vitamin D is my favorite. This is because the best source of Vitamin D (outside of actual Vitamin D pills) is sunshine! Just 10-15 minutes in the sun can give you what you need. OWH recommends 600mg per day. I may be pale, but give me some SPF 70 and I cherish my time in the sun! I am a sun baby for sure.

3) Eat a healthy diet

produce

kale

Kale, black beans, and chicken = recipe for healthy bones?

Protein, vitamins K and C, and several other nutrients are also key in bone health. Leafy greens actually have some calcium, and the WOH suggests lean proteins like poultry and fish.

4) Get moving
baby muscles

Check out those baby muscles!

Weight-bearing activity (anything where your body works against gravity) is best for keeping healthy bones. Walking, running, and lifting weights (a new-ish practice for me – see above) are all activities I do several times per week to keep me strong.

5) Don’t smoke

Never have, never will!

6) Drink alcohol moderately

Well…depends on your definition of “moderate”. I do have more than one drink (usually no more than 3-4) a couple times per week. This is definitely an area that can be improved upon :)

7) Make your home safe

WOH recommends things like bath mats and less clutter to avoid falling in your home… The main thing I really have to worry about is flying objects:

This may seem like a random topic for a post, but I had a scary encounter last night at dodgeball that has me pretty nervous:

I jammed my thumb pretty badly :-( It’s currently swollen to about 1.5 times its normal size, is hard as a rock, and is lookin’ all kinds of blue and purple. Heading to the doc in about an hour to get it checked out… lots of happy thoughts please!

When all is said and done, I’m hoping all the precautions I’ve been taking for the past year that I’ve outlined here have served me well and that it’s just a really bad sprain.

Hope you all have a great weekend!

Have you ever broken a bone or had a bad sports injury?

Does osteoporosis run in your family? Start taking calcium!!

30 thoughts on “Women & Bone Health: Why I Take Calcium

  1. Ahhh that thumb looks like it’s a hurtin’ unit! I learned a lot about calcium in this post that I really didn’t know about! Glad to see you’re being proactive about increasing your bone density….I think you’re on the right track. And as far as dodgeball- I say if it’s bringing you all of those things (socializing, physical activity and FUN) then don’t stop! I actually saw this new dodgeball club starting in my area and immediately thought of you and considered joining…mostly because I know you love it, ha!

  2. Ahhh that thumb looks like it’s a hurtin’ unit! I learned a lot about calcium in this post that I really didn’t know about! Glad to see you’re being proactive about increasing your bone density….I think you’re on the right track. And as far as dodgeball- I say if it’s bringing you all of those things (socializing, physical activity and FUN) then don’t stop! I actually saw this new dodgeball club starting in my area and immediately thought of you and considered joining…mostly because I know you love it, ha!

  3. Ouch, that break looked brutal! And now again on your other hand? You must really love dodgeball.
    I hope your good habits with calcium help you to heal up quick! I’m glad you did a post on the importance of it too because a lot of young women don’t think about osteopenia. It runs in my family so I try to lift weights on regular basis to help!

    • I know, I just can’t believe it happened again! I’m so thankful it’s not the same hand again… I lift weights too but I’m starting to think I should start using something to strengthen my hand muscles/bones!

  4. Ouch, that break looked brutal! And now again on your other hand? You must really love dodgeball.
    I hope your good habits with calcium help you to heal up quick! I’m glad you did a post on the importance of it too because a lot of young women don’t think about osteopenia. It runs in my family so I try to lift weights on regular basis to help!

    • I know, I just can’t believe it happened again! I’m so thankful it’s not the same hand again… I lift weights too but I’m starting to think I should start using something to strengthen my hand muscles/bones!

  5. Very helpful post. I haven’t heard of osteoporosis in my family, but getting enough calcium is important for everyone. I eat a lot of cheese and calcium rich foods so I hope I have good bone health. granted i need to lower my alcohol intake and lift more weights but baby steps :)

  6. Very helpful post. I haven’t heard of osteoporosis in my family, but getting enough calcium is important for everyone. I eat a lot of cheese and calcium rich foods so I hope I have good bone health. granted i need to lower my alcohol intake and lift more weights but baby steps :)

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