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Stronger bones

The vitamin women need for stronger bones

For years, calcium has been the go-to nutrient for keeping bones healthy and strong. However, new studies are emphasizing that without vitamin D, calcium can be rendered ineffective, especially in women. “Vitamin D is more important than we really knew,” says Barbara Croft, M.D., a gynecologist at Piedmont Atlanta.

“We are in a shifting time now with new research.” Many women experience accelerated bone loss during menopause, she explains. “If this goes on over time, it can lead to osteoporosis,” she explains. “It’s estimated that as many as 50 percent of Caucasian women will have a bone fracture in their lifetime.”

To maximize calcium’s bone-building benefits and prevent bone fractures, women need to incorporate enough vitamin D into their diet. “If you’re deficient in vitamin D, you can’t even absorb the calcium you get either in your diet or with a supplement,” says Dr. Croft.

The general recommendation for most adults is 600 IU of vitamin D a day. Some people require more, so talk with your physician about your specific requirements. Maintaining healthy vitamin D levels is important not only for women going through menopause, but also for children, teens and pregnant women. “All prenatal vitamins are fortified with vitamin D,” she says.

Dr. Croft says many of her patients have their vitamin D levels checked regularly by a primary care physician and notes that it is especially important for some women to keep an eye on their vitamin D level. “In patients who are interested in their osteoporosis risk or their family history of osteoporosis, I recommend that they get their vitamin D level checked,” she says.

“This will determine if what they’re now doing is adequate.”

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