A Bone to Pick for Postmenopausal Women

Osteoporosis related fractures likely to affect one in three women over the age of 50 according to report

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) As women age, osteoporosis — a condition that makes the bones weak and more likely to break — becomes a greater concern. As a result, preventing osteoporosis may become more important for older women. 

According to a new report, one in three women aged 50 years and over will have a fracture caused by osteoporosis. However, there are steps women can take to prevent fractures and osteoporosis from occurring.

The report listed several tips for women to lower their risk of developing osteoporosis, including regular exercise, eating a healthy diet and quitting smoking. The report also listed individual risk factors that women should be aware of, including a family history of osteoporosis and a previous fall or fracture.

While the authors stressed the importance of prevention, they noted that for women who have been diagnosed with osteoporosis, regularly taking medication is important for effective disease management.

"Talk to your doctor about how to maintain good bone health."

This report was co-authored by Bess Dawson-Hughes, of the US Department of Agriculture Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging, Ghada El-Hajj Fuleihan, of the WHO Collaborating Center for Metabolic Bone Disorders and Patricia Clark with the National University of Mexico.

The report highlighted five ways in which women can reduce their risk of osteoporosis and fractures:

  1. Exercising
  2. Proper diet and nutrition (including calcium, vitamin D, and other nutrients)
  3. Quitting smoking
  4. Drinking alcohol in moderation
  5. Maintaining a healthy weight

According to the report, the primary benefit of exercise is reducing the risk of falls. It also noted that exercise can have a small but significant impact on bone mineral density, increasing it by 1 to 2 percent. Having a higher bone mineral density makes the bones stronger and less likely to break.

While any exercise is good, strength training and resistance training were reported as the most beneficial. It was noted, however, that exercise programs should be tailored to the individual to maximize potential benefits and minimize risk of injury.

Nutrition was cited as another very important part of osteoporosis prevention. According to the report, a healthy diet that includes a lot of fruits and vegetables can help to reduce the risk of osteoporosis and fractures, but women should also focus on specific nutrients. Some of the nutrients discussed included calcium, vitamin D, and protein.

Calcium was cited in the report as an important nutrient because it is the building block of the skeleton, and it helps to reduce the risk of fractures. Getting calcium through diet rather than through supplements is preferred. Some foods high in calcium include milk, yogurt, cheese, sesame seeds, rice pudding, figs and soybeans.

Vitamin D was cited as an important nutrient because it plays a role in bone and muscle development, and reduces the risk of falling. Our bodies produce vitamin D after exposure to the sun.

Lastly, protein was cited as an important nutrient because it helps to maintain bone mineral density.

Lifestyle factors were also cited as affecting the risk of osteoporosis and fractures. Current and former smokers were reported to be at higher risk of fractures than non-smokers while heavy drinkers were reported to be at a greater risk of fractures compared to light or non-drinkers.

The report also noted that women should be aware of five individual risk factors that put them at a greater risk of developing osteoporosis. These five factors include the following:

  1. Having had a previous fall or fracture
  2. Having a family history of osteoporosis
  3. Taking specific medications (e.g., glucocorticosteroids - which treat inflammation and immune diseases)
  4. Presence of other specific diseases (e.g., Crohn's disease, celiac disease and rheumatoid arthritis)
  5. Early menopause

Osteoporosis is a major public health and women's health issue. Worldwide, among women who are over 45 years old, osteoporosis is responsible for more days spent in the hospital than diseases like diabetes, breast cancer and heart attack.

The authors of the report urge postmenopausal women to speak with their doctors about individual risk factors they may have for osteoporosis, testing for osteoporosis, and specific lifestyle changes that they can make to improve bone health.

As stressed by the authors, sticking to treatment is very important for women who have been diagnosed with osteoporosis. Left untreated, fractures caused by osteoporosis can leave patients permanently unable to walk. Some tips given for consistently taking medication include taking medication at the same time each day, week or month and putting up a reminder in a place you will see it frequently.

This report was published on October 10 by the International Osteoporosis Foundation.

Review Date: 
October 10, 2013
Last Updated:
October 11, 2013