Overuse and underuse of calcium and vitamin D in women with osteoporosis: A survey in a primary care setting


Introduction: Optimal calcium and vitamin D intake is important components of the treatment of osteoporosis. The national average calcium and vitamin D intake for women over age 50 is below the recommended levels for optimal bone health. The aim of this study was to assess whether deficiencies in calcium and vitamin D intake exist in women with osteoporosis in a general medicine practice, as well as evaluate whether physicians accurately document calcium and vitamin D supplementation in the health record. Methods: Using the Electronic Health Record (EHR), we identified all female patients age 50 and older with the diagnosis of osteoporosis who were seen at the study site clinic, an urban academic general medicine practice, between January 1st, 2010 and December 1st, 2010. Women were randomly selected to receive an invitation to participate in a telephone survey on osteoporosis treatment. Results: One hundred and sixteen women completed the telephone survey. The mean calcium intake was 1524 mg per day. Forty-nine percent of women surveyed reported taking less than 1200 mg/day of supplemental calcium. When considering reported calcium intake from diet, 33% percent consumed less than 1200 mg/day and 52% percent consumed more than 1500 mg/day. Twenty eight percent of patients were taking less than 800 IU/day of vitamin D; only four percent were taking more than 4000 IU/day. Agreement between patients’ self-reported intake of calcium, vitamin D and multivitamin supplements and physicians’ documentation of these supplements was 52% for calcium, 53% for vitamin D and 61% for multivitamin. Conclusion: Among women with osteoporosis getting regular care in a general medicine practice, approximately a third are getting less than the recommended daily amount of calcium and a quarter less than the recommended amount of vitamin D. In addition, a significant proportion of women are getting excessive daily amounts of calcium, which may also be a quality concern. Rates of agreement between self-reported calcium and vitamin D supplements and chart documentation of these supplements were low.

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Silva, M. , Romeiser, A. , Baker, D. , Didwania, A. , Brown, T. , Feinglass, J. , Lee, J. and Dolan, N. (2013) Overuse and underuse of calcium and vitamin D in women with osteoporosis: A survey in a primary care setting. Open Journal of Preventive Medicine, 3, 570-575. doi: 10.4236/ojpm.2013.39076.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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