New Study and 5 Tips for Protecting Older Women's Bone Health

Dorian Martin Health Guide
  • Good news! Older women may not need to go through frequent screenings of bone health if bone density tests find that their bones are strong.

    In new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers analyzed longitudinal data on bone density tests from approximately 5,000 women who were at least 67 years of age. NPR reported that their analysis found that tests can safely be postponed for up to 15 years for women who initially have a bone density test that indicates all is well. However, women who are considered at moderate risk for osteoporosis should have screenings every five years. And, not surprisingly, women at high risk need to be tested more often.

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    Bone health is nothing to take for granted. The National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF) reports, “About one in two women over the age of 50 will break a bone because of osteoporosis. A woman’s risk of breaking a hip due to osteoporosis is equal to her risk of breast, ovarian and uterine cancer combined. Women have lighter, thinner bones than men. Many women also lose bone quickly after menopause.”

    So what is it about menopause that puts you at greater risk of breaking a bone? “In women, the sex hormone estrogen protects bones,” the NOF website states. “For many women, bone loss increases after menopause when estrogen levels drop sharply. If you go through menopause early, your risk of osteoporosis increases. The same is true if you have your ovaries removed. That’s because your ovaries produce most of your body’s estrogen. In either of these cases, it’s important to speak with your healthcare provider about steps to improve bone health.”

    Here are some proactive steps that you can you take to take care of your bones:

    • Get enough calcium and vitamin D. Calcium, a mineral, helps build bones while vitamin D helps the body use calcium. The NOF recommends that adults under the age of 50 get a total of 1,000 milligrams of calcium and 400-800 international units of vitamin D daily. Adults who are 50 and older need a total of 1,200 milligrams of calcium and 800-100 international units of vitamin D daily. These figures are for calcium that you get from both food and supplements.
    • Eat lots of fruits and vegetables. “Eating a well-balanced diet, rich in fruits and vegetables, is important for healthy bones,” the NOF suggests. “In addition to calcium and vitamin D, magnesium, potassium and vitamin K are a few of the many minerals and vitamins that are important for bone health.
    • Don’t eat too much protein, sodium and caffeine. Although protein is needed for bone health, NOF warns that diets that have high amounts of non-dairy animal protein, sodium and caffeine may cause calcium to be lost. Of special note are cola drinks, which if consumed regularly, may cause a person to have a greater risk of bone loss.
    • Drink specific teas. Dr. Andrew Weil notes that two research studies found that drinking Yerba Mate tea and Chinese tea may increase bone strength in postmenopausal women.
    • Exercise. The National Institutes of Health Osteoporosis and Related Bone Diseases National Resource Center recommends weight-bearing exercises, such as weight training, walking, hiking, jogging, climbing stairs, tennis and dancing.

    And if you needed additional incentive to take bone health seriously, FabOverFifty website has created the “3 Steps to Bone Health Challenge!” with the winner getting a three-day to a spa. The three steps are easy:

    • Visit your doctor to assess your risk of osteoporosis;
    • Develop a plan of action with your doctor to protect your bone health;
    • Leave a comment on their website telling what you’re doing to protect your bones.


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Published On: January 19, 2012