One of the major issues associated with menopause is loss of bone. In an interesting online article by Doctors Harris, Jaffe, and Shoback in The Journal of Endocrinology & Metabolism entitled “Menopause and Bone Loss” (March 2006), they explain what happens after menopause:
â€œMenopause-the time when menstrual periods end, which usually happens around age 51-dramatically speeds up bone loss. After menopause your ovaries stop producing the hormone estrogen, which helps to keep your bones strong. Even during perimenopause (the period of 2 to 8 years before menopause), when your periods start to become irregular, your estrogen levels may start to drop off. Over time, too much bone loss can first cause osteopenia (low bone mass) and then osteoporosis, a condition in which bones become weak and are more likely to break (fracture).â€
Risk factors associated with bone loss are higher if you have a family history of osteopenia or osteoporosis. However, there are other risk factors the article lists:
- White or Asian
- Thin or have a small frame
- Taking steroid medications (e.g., prednisone, cortisone)
- Eating a diet low in calcium and vitamin D
- Getting little or no exercise
- Smoking cigarettes
- Drinking too much alcohol
Once you are post-menopausal, I think having a Dexascan is prudent. This is a painless test that will tell your doctor the extent of your bone loss. However, the June issue of Consumer Reports, in an article about which tests may not be needed, indicate that if you have only mild bone loss, you may want to think twice before taking drugs such as Fosamax and Boniva, since they pose their own risks, such as thigh fractures, chest pain (which I experienced after one dose of Fosamax and stopped taking immediately), difficulty swallowing, and other problems.
Also, in Strong Women, Strong Bones by Miriam Nelson, MD, there is an entire plan for keeping your bones strong. I read the book some time ago, and as a result, added weight lifting to my exercise regimen. I recommend this book if you are just starting to explore the problems associated with bone loss.
Diet and lifestyle changes are important to consider during and after menopause anyway, so this may be a good time to add fresh fruits and vegetables that contain the minerals calcium and magnesium, including berries and leafy greens.
I also remember reading that soda, including diet soda, could trigger bone loss, but have not done enough research to figure out if the soda is the culprit or the fact that the soda replaces other drinks or foods that do not contain essential minerals. Either way, soda is not real food to me, so I avoid it.
As with any changes in your body, exploring your daily routine to see where improvements can be made is a good place to start. Your doctor will tell you when you need a Dexascan and then you have to investigate whether the treatment is worse than the ailment. (I decided Fosamax was not safe for me and added weight lifting to my high fruit & vegetable intake and my last test showed no additional loss.) The article in Consumer Reports indicates that we need to ask our doctor:
- Do I really need this test or procedure?
- What are the downsides?
- Are there simpler, safer options?
- What happens if I do nothing?
- How much does it cost?
You need to be in charge of your body with the help of your health practitioner(s). Weigh the pros and cons of each test and procedure and do your homework! Then proceed with confidence, good food, and regular exercise. Keep in mind what Dr. Albert Schweitzer said: “Each patient carries his/her own doctor inside him/her.” (I added the her. es)
P.S. In an article in my files from Health Monitor Magazine, there was one entitled “Get in the Know About Osteoporosis” by Felicia Cosman, MD, in which she stated that there is a common myth that osteoporosis is a woman’s disease. However, she emphasizes that while women are four times more likely than men too develop this condition, about 20% of the 2,000,000 Americans with osteoporosis are men. The article also recommends a website for more information about bone density tests and diagnoses. That link is: www.guide2bonehealth.com). There is an additional link on that site about reducing the Big O, which is what I call osteoporosis, by 2020. You may want to follow up on that link