We have all heard that healthy amounts of calcium and Vitamin D is important for bones. But is it enough?
The jury is out on whether osteoporosis can be prevented by total natural means or not.
For instance, menopausal women should consume 1200-1500 mg of calcium per day. In reference to a study in 2008, women over age 40 who took calcium supplements had a 31% higher risk of a heart attack compared to those who did not (MI; JW Womens health Mar 2008, p. 17, and BMJ 2008; 336-262). Eating foods with less than 800 mg of calcium daily was not associated with an increased risk. So a combination of calcium-rich foods (less than 800 mg) and supplementation is recommended.
On the other hand, using bisphosphonates (Fosomax, Actonel, Boniva), has been associated with a small increase of atypical fractures of the femur with long term use (J Bone Joint Surg Am 2009; 91:2556). Osteonecrosis of the jaw is also a risk.
Another study in Canada (Jamal SA et al. JAMA 2011; Feb 23; 305:800)showed favorable results in women who took Nitroglycerin ointment daily. That’s right, this is the drug that wards off a heart attack that people take with the onset of chest pain. After 2 years, those who received the Nitro showed a significant increase in bone density as well as bone strength. The problem was that 5.6% of women in the Nitro group compared to 1.7% of those in the placebo group dropped out within the first year due to headaches.
And then there’s the newer drugs like Forteo. Side effects include joint pain, nausea, dizziness, runny nose and in rare cases osteosarcoma (bone tumor).
The bottom line: Get a bone density scan (DEXA) and talk to your practitioner about your options. They need to individualize the best plan for you. Every woman is different. A health alkaline rich diet, exercise, and supplements are a foundation for healthy bones. Some women need more to prevent fracture while others don’t. You can do an NTX bone marker (simple urine test) to check in and see if you are turning bone over too rapidly before your next DEXA, which is usually every 2 years. Fortunately there are many options to prevent as well as reverse osteoporosis. The first step is to see what your bone density is now, and then make the best decision for you.