Osteoporosis and Menopause: Is It Too Late to Do Anything?

Neil Gonter, MD Health Pro
  • Reader Question: Is it too late to do anything about osteoporosis if I have already reached the age of menopause?

    It is never too late to improve one’s bones and risk of fracture.  Helpful things include dietary management and supplements, proper exercise, lifestyle changes, as well as proper medication management.

     

    Dietary Management and Supplements


     

    It is extremely important when one is young to get adequate nutrition and calcium supplementation.  Our bone undergoes a constant cycle of addition and removal.  Nutrition is extremely important up until the age of around 30, when our skeletons grow to their strongest.  However, it is never too late, even if your menstrual cycle has stopped to assist your bones. 

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    It is possible to get adequate calcium intake from diet, however, most people find this difficult.  Unfortunately, many calcium-rich foods have a high fat content and are avoided in many weight loss diets.  It is therefore often necessary to add supplements our diet.

     

    A recent study published last year in the Archives of Internal Medicine showed that calcium supplements reduce the risk of fractures in older women, but only among those who take them regularly.

    Vitamin D is also extremely important.  Among the many things it is found to do, it helps our bodies absorb calcium from the gut. 

     

    Recommendations for calcium intake vary by age.  The National Academy of Sciences says adults between 19 and 50 years old need 1,000 milligrams of calcium each day. Adults over 50 need 1,200 milligrams per day.  Four hundred international units of vitamin D are also recommended each day.  This should be increased to 800 international units in adults over 70 or those taking steroids.

     

    Exercise


    Once again, exercise is shown to be an integral part of everyone’s well being. Weight-bearing exercises stress the muscles and bones and encourage the bones to get stronger to accommodate this.  While one may not necessarily gain excessive amounts of bone density, one should be satisfied with the ultimately important factor, that their fall and fracture risk does decrease.


    Lifestyle Changes


    Healthy habits are also important.  While one to two drinks per day may actually be protective for one’s bones, excessive alcohol intake has been associated with increased bone loss.  

     

    Heavy smoking has long been associated with greater risk for osteoporosis, a higher incidence of bone fractures, lower bone density, decreased bone healing; and a decrease in new bone formation.


    Medication Management


    It is important to pay careful attention to one’s medications.  Corticosteroids, anti-seizure medication, antipsychotics, breast cancer drugs as well as excess thyroid medication usage have all been associated with bone loss.  As with any medication, these should not be stopped without one’s doctors knowledge and care should be taken that that the dosage as well as length of treatment is appropriate.


    Finally, if one has documented bone loss, they should be evaluated by their physician for the proper pharmacological management.


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    In conclusion, it is never too late for one to help themselves to minimize their risks of the possible devastating complications of osteoporosis.

     

Published On: March 15, 2007