The Test All Menopausal Women Need to Take to Determine Risk of Osteoporosis

Patient Expert

After recently interviewing Dr. Tara Allmen (who created the informational DVD, "Menopause in an Hour"), I am increasingly focusing on avoiding osteoporosis. But how can you tell if you're at risk?

Dr. Michael Roizen and Dr. Mehmet Oz addressed this question in a column (linked to above) published in the Houston Chronicle. "Osteoporosis is sneaky," the doctors warn. You won't have a clue that your bones have been quietly getting brittle until you trip over the dog's water bowl and break your wrist or fracture your hip."

To find out if you're at risk, the doctors recommend taking a bone mineral-density test, which analyzes the skeleton's sturdiness. Roisen and Oz note that when you should get this test varies. "If bones that snap like toothpicks run in your family (or if you're underweight or overdo alcohol), you should get your skeleton scanned by 50 or younger," they wrote. "If not, docs urge women to have the test around menopause and definitely by 65."

The doctors note that the test is fast, painless, safe and inexpensive. "Figure about 15 minutes for a DXA scan of your hip and spine (DXA stands for dual energy x-ray absorptiometry)," they wrote. DXA scans are the gold standards for assessing your bones' mineral content (that is, their strength)." The cost of the test (for those women whose insurance doesn't cover the procedure) is approximately $200.'s Osteoporosis site notes that once a woman enters menopause and more rapid bone depletion happens, the line between prevention and treatment blurs. The site recommends the following:

  • Moderate exercise (more than 3 days a week for more than a total of 90 minutes a week). Please note that mild exercise does not protect bones. Regular brisk long walks can help improve bone density and mobility, and also may ease osteoarthritis pain. Middle-aged adults can also do high-impact exercises, but as they age, they should avoid step aerobics, which increase the risk for osteoporotic fractures. Jumping exercises also can be problematic.

  • Women also can benefit from exercises specifically targeted to strengthen the back in order to prevent fractures later in life and to improve posture.

  • Low-impact exercises (such as yoga and tai chi) that focus on concentration, balance and strength can help decrease the risk of falling.

  • Exercising with weights (also known as resistance training) is important. Add this type of exercise twice a week.

In their column in the Houston Chronicle, Dr. Oz and Dr. Roizen recommend taking 600 mg of calcium, 200 mg of magnesium and 600 IU of vitamin D-3 twice a day. Dr. Tara Allmen recommends taking calcium supplements equaling 1,500 mg a day in split doses (half in morning, half in evening) as well as 1000-2000 IU/day of vitamin D3, which helps the calcium be absorbed and get to your bones.

I appreciate knowing what test to ask my doctor about so I can determine whether I'm at risk of osteoporosis. Also, making daily efforts through exercise and supplements (as well as eating foods that are high in key nutrients) also make a lot of sense. Those are resolutions that all women who are entering menopause need to make - and keep.

Editor's Note:

Fore more information:

What is Your FRAX Score?

Medicare DXA Reimbursement Rate

Osteoporosis Prevention: 10 Things YOU Can Do