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Calcium is important for the development and maintenance of bones. We lose bone mass as we age, so it is important that we consume plenty of calcium. After the menopause, women are at a higher risk of osteoporosis (thinning of the bones) and reduced bone density. This is because the hormone oestrogen has a protective effect over bone breakdown and after menopause, less oestrogen is produced.
As a result, it is particularly important that older women get plenty of calcium from their diet to minimise bone loss. Milk, cheese and yogurt are rich in calcium, but other sources include fish with edible bones (e.g. salmon, sardines), some green leafy vegetables like kale, calcium fortified soy products (e.g. soya drink, tofu), white bread and fortified breakfast cereals. You should be able to get all the calcium you need from your diet, but if you do take calcium supplements, be careful not to take too much – stick to less than 1500mg per day.