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When you were a kid, adults probably told you to drink lots of milk in order to grow up big and strong. Granted, it might not make you Superman or Wonder Woman, but the calcium found in milk and other products does help make your body stronger, specifically your bones.

No matter how old a person is, everyone needs calcium to build or maintain bone strength. However, many people don’t get enough of the essential nutrient. That’s especially dangerous for older women, who are at higher risk for osteoporosis. A disease that makes bones weak and more likely to break, osteoporosis affects 1 in 4 women over the age of 65.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the following steps could help you get plenty of calcium and protect your bones:

Know How Much You Need
Most adults should get 1,000 mg of calcium every day, with that amount increasing to 1,200 mg daily for women over 50 and men over 70. Meanwhile, the recommended daily amount for kids aged 1 to 3 is 700 mg; 4 to 8 is 1,000 mg; and 9 to 18 is 1,300 mg.

Keep Calcium in Your Diet
The best way to get enough calcium is to eat foods with the nutrient in them every day. Calcium is in fat-free or low-fat dairy products; certain vegetables, including soybeans, collard greens, broccoli and turnip greens; and a host of food products fortified with calcium (i.e., with the nutrient added), including some orange juices, tofu, soymilk and breakfast cereals. If you don’t eat enough foods with calcium, taking a calcium supplement daily might be beneficial.

Check Food Labels
The Daily Value (DV) on a food label tells you the amount of a nutrient that’s in each serving. Foods that have at least 10 percent DV of calcium are good; ones with 20 percent DV are excellent. For example, a cup of fat-free milk has about 300 mg of calcium, or 30 percent DV.

Let Vitamin D Help
Vitamin D helps you absorb calcium. Although the human body makes vitamin D when out in the sun–and most people meet at least some of their vitamin D needs this way–it’s prudent to limit sun exposure to reduce the risk of skin cancer.

Therefore, try to include good sources of vitamin D in your diet. Salmon and tuna are among the best choices, but many of the same food products fortified with calcium also have the vitamin added in. In addition, daily vitamin D supplements are available.

Get Tested
If you’re an older adult, especially a woman, ask your doctor if you should get a bone density test to check for osteoporosis. The test is like an X-ray or scan of your body. It doesn’t hurt and should only take about 15 minutes.

Getting enough calcium can help keep your bones strong. Talk to your doctor about health concerns and before taking supplements or making changes in your diet.

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