Menopause Symptoms

Osteoporosis and low bone density

# Prevent osteoporosis. The body cannot absorb calcium from food or supplements without an adequate intake of vitamin D. If calcium levels in the blood are too low, the body will steal the mineral from the bones and supply the muscles and nerves with the amount they need. Over time, the loss of calcium in the bones can lead to osteoporosis, a disease in which bones become porous and prone to fractures. After menopause, women are particularly at risk for developing this condition. Vitamin D taken along with calcium plays a critical role in maintaining bone density.

In a study of 176 men and 213 women over age 65 done at Tufts University, those who took 500 mg of calcium and 700 IU of vitamin D daily for three years experienced a decrease in bone density loss. Moreover, the incidence of fractures was cut in half. In another study, of 3,270 healthy elderly French women, a daily dietary supplement of 1,200 mg calcium plus 800 IU of vitamin D lowered the incidence of hip fractures by 43% in just two years.

National Women's Health Network Fact Sheet




In the United States, fractures from osteoporosis are an important health 
problem. White women have a 16% chance of hip fracture; in contrast, 
the risk for African-American women is a much lower 6%. Risks for 
Asian American and Native American women are believed to be in 
between these two extremes. Hip fractures occur at an average age of 80 
and recovery is very difficult. Many women who survive the initial 
treatment are unable to live independently after a hip fracture. Vertebral 
fractures occur more frequently and at slightly younger ages and can 
also result in pain and limited mobility.

More About Bone Density

Both men and women begin to lose bone at about age 35 and lose 
steadily as they get older. Only about 15% of the bone lost by women is 
believed to be sensitive to estrogen. Estrogen-related bone loss occurs 
relatively quickly in the first few years after menopause. Bone density 
screening performed around this time can accurately measure bone 
density, but should not be relied upon to predict ultimate risk of fracture, 
which typically occurs 25-30 years later.

Bone density screening can more accurately predict the risk of fracture 
for white women in their 60's or older. The older models developed so far 
have been based on white women, and have not yet been shown to 
accurately predict risk in women of color. For example, Asian women are 
not as likely to fracture as are white women at the same bone density.



Do You Need Bone Density Screening?

The NWHN disagrees with recommendations to screen all 
post-menopausal women. Women who are considering bone density 
screening should first evaluate their risk of fracture. If risk is increased, 
modifiable risk factors like diet, exercise, and home safety should be 
addressed first. If a significant number of non-modifiable risks exist, 
particularly the use of bone-thinning drugs, family history, and loss of 
ovarian function before age 40, bone density screening may be useful to 
assess the precise level of risk faced by an individual woman.

Currently, "low" bone density is defined as levels significantly less than 
normal for healthy young adults, which results in nearly all older women 
eventually being diagnosed with osteoporosis. The NWHN disagrees with 
this definition and recommends that women ask for their bone density 
levels to be compared with women of the same age when predictions of 
risk are made.

Women of color are less likely to need bone density screening than are 
white women. If it is used, results should be interpreted cautiously.

How To Increase Bone Density or Slow Bone Loss Without Drugs 

* Exercise - weight bearing activity builds bone 
* Eat a high calcium diet 
* Avoid excessive protein, caffeine 
* Keep your ovaries as long as possible 
* Stop smoking

How To Prevent Fractures

* "Fall proof" your home 
* Avoid long-acting tranquilizers 
* Exercise - can improve balance 
* Avoid excessive alcohol

Credit: Women's Health Network


Comments "It is well established that estrogen replacement during menopause protects bone mass and helps protect against the risk of osteoporotic fractures. The accelerated bone loss during menopause has little relationship to the amount of calcium intake. After age 60, however, the proper attention to calcium intake is very important and has been shown to increase bone density. An important study published in 1992 showed that elderly women who took supplemental dietary calcium (with vitamin D) had a 30% less fractures (including hip fractures) than similar women who did not take supplemental calcium." SOURCE

"For better bones, take 500 mg magnesium (not citrate) with your calcium. Better yet, wash your calcium pill down with a glass of herbal infusion; that will provide not only magnesium but lots of other bone-strengthening minerals, too. Calcium supplements are more effective in divided doses.Two doses of 250 mg, taken morning and night, actually provide more usable calcium than a 1000 mg tablet." SOURCE 

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