How can we prevent osteoporosis as we age? Lynette Sheppard provides some useful tips.
According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation,
Women can lose up to 20% of their bone density in the 5 to 7 years after menopause.
So it makes sense to prevent bone loss before approaching menopausal age.
The most important preventative and restorative measures are actually quite simple.
You can start this regimen right now.
Weight bearing exercise is critical for bone health. Walking, jogging, and lifting small weights are ideal. Swimming and biking are great aerobically, but do not provide as much weight bearing exercise.
Balance exercises such as yoga and tai chi can help you guard against falls.
The easiest, most natural way of getting Vitamin D is through exposure to sunshine. UVB rays (ultraviolet radiation) turn cholesterol in our skin to Vitamin D.
Obviously, we don’t want to burn our skin or increase our risk of skin cancer. However, sunshine does have significant health benefits. Vitamin D not only promotes bone health, but may exert a protective effect against multiple diseases and conditions such as cancer, type 1 diabetes and multiple sclerosis.
Worried about skin damage with sun exposure? There is a middle ground. Apply a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15 when you’re outside for an extended period and weari a hat and shirt around midday.
You may also want to take Vitamin D3 supplements, especially if you live in northern latitudes. Scientists don’t yet know the optimal daily dose of vitamin D for each person. Most multivitamin products contain between 600 and 800 IU of vitamin D. Up to 4,000 IU of vitamin D a day is considered safe for most people.
Calcium is tricky these days. Calcium supplements have been linked to heart disease especially in women (Anderson et al., 2016). There is also a link to kidney stone formation (Sorensen, 2014). So, unless you have low calcium diagnosed by a physician, you may not wish to take additional calcium supplements. Instead, get your intake from food sources of calcium:
- dark, green, leafy vegetables
- dairy products
- canned salmon or sardines with bones
The Institute of Medicine recommends that total calcium intake, from supplements and diet combined, should be no more than 2,000 milligrams daily for people older than 50.
That’s right, prunes. Turns out that prunes increased bone density in post menopausal women in two key studies (Hooshmand et al., 2016; Rendina et al., 2013). So run out to the store and buy some prunes (or dried plums as they are sometimes called).
Smoking accelerates bone loss and increases the possibility of experiencing a fracture.
Limit alcohol intake
Consumption of more than two drinks of alcohol a day has been associated with bone loss (Berg et al., 2008).
Get a baseline bone scan if you are post menopausal. Mild osteopenia is common post menopause and many effects can be ameliorated by the modalities listed above. If the scan shows abnormalities, discuss remedies with your physician.
Remember, it’s never too late to prevent osteoporosis and maintain a healthy bone regimen.
For more on prevention visit
Anderson, J.J.B., Kruszka, B., Delaney, J. A.C, Ka He, Burke, G. L., Alonso, A., Bild, D.E., Budoff, M., Michos, E. D. Calcium intake from diet and supplements and the risk of coronary artery calcification and its progression among older adults: 10‐Year follow‐up of the multi‐ethnic study of atherosclerosis (MESA). (2016). Journal of the American Heart Association, 5:e003815.
Berg, K.M., Kunins, H.V., Jackson, J.L., Nahvi, S., Chaudhry, A., Harris, K.A., … Arnsten, J.H. (2008). Association Between Alcohol Consumption and Both Osteoporotic Fracture and Bone Density. The American Journal of Medicine, 121(5), 406–418.
Hooshmand, S., Kern, M., Metti, D., Shamloufard, P., Chai, S.C., Johnson, S.A. Payton, M.E, Armando, B.H. (2016). The effect of two doses of dried plum on bone density and bone biomarkers in osteopenic postmenopausal women: a randomized, controlled trial. Osteoporosis Int., 27(7), 2271-2279.
Rendina, E., Hembree, K.D., Davis, M. R., Marlow, D., Clarke, S.L., Halloran, B.P., … Smith, B.J. (2013). Dried Plum’s Unique Capacity to Reverse Bone Loss and Alter Bone Metabolism in Postmenopausal Osteoporosis Model. PLoS ONE, 8(3), e60569.
Sorensen, M.D. (2014). Calcium intake and urinary stone disease. Translational Andrology and Urology, 3(3), 235–240.
Lynette Sheppard is a former Nurse-Manager, head of Intensive Care and Coronary Care units in Santa Rosa, California for 10+ years, with a focus on both allopathic and alternative medicine. She is the author of Becoming a Menopause Goddess and blogs at Menopause Goddess.