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Osteoporosis

A major concern of postmenopausal women is the development of osteoporosis or 'brittle bones".

Many of us know someone who had a hip fracture or "dowagers' hump". We wonder whether the same thing will happen to us. It's true that bone strength reaches a peak at about 35 years of age and begins to decline in women after age 40. We also know that the rate of bone loss is most rapid in women within two years of menopause. All women should consider these facts and take action to prevent bone loss and fractures.

You may be at increased risk of developing brittle bones if you have a family history of osteoporosis. Risk also increases for women who had an inadequate calcium intake early in life, Smokers, inactive people and those who drink excessive amounts of alcohol should also be concerned. Advancing age and petite body frame may also contribute to risk. Feel free to discuss your perception of your own risk for developing osteoporosis with your health care provider. Together, we can decide which diagnostic and treatment options are best for you.

There are practical things which all women should consider incorporating into their routines to maintain strong bones. A list of suggestions follows.

  • Consume 1000 mg of calcium if on hormone replacement and 1500 mg if not taking hormone replacement. A glass of skim milk contains 302 mg of calcium. An 8 oz. container of low fat yogurt contains 415 mg.
  • Stop smoking. Carbon monoxide and nicotine are toxic to bone cells.
  • Avoid excessive use of alcohol (more than two drinks a day). Alcohol increases urine loss of calcium.
  • Do some weight bearing exercises at least three times a week (i.e. walking) for 30 minutes at a time.
  • Consume at least 400 'U of Vitamin D daily (from milk, egg yolks, fish, sunshine or supplements).
  • Avoid excessive fiber in diet. Estrogen and calcium binds to it and are excreted from the body.
  • Avoid excessive animal meat proteins. Excessive proteins causes calcium to be pulled out of bones.
  • Avoid carbonated drinks (especially dark sodas). These drinks contain phosphorus which causes the body to lose more calcium.
  • Avoid excessive salt such as salty snack foods. These foods increase calcium loss and may increase the blood pressure.
  • Other foods that may block the availability of calcium to the bones when taken in large quantities include spinach and broccoli.
  • Use hormone replacement therapy if it is right for you! Discuss it with your doctor.