BHG.com / Health and Family / Conditions / Osteoporosis / A Guide to Getting and Keeping Strong Bones
Once you pass menopause, estrogen levels fall sharply, and so does your bone mass -- up to 20 percent within seven years.
- Watch Your Salt One study of postmenopausal women found that the more sodium they took in, the more likely they were to have bone loss. Keep your intake to 2,300 mg (about a teaspoon) of sodium a day or less.
- Have a Scan If you have any risk factors, ask your doctor if a baseline DXA scan makes sense. Dualenergy x-ray absorptiometry, or DXA, is painless and quick, and can uncover early signs of osteoporosis before it turns into a real problem. A machine scans your clothed body and measures bone-mineral quantity.
- Revisit the Supplement Aisle If you're not already on calcium and vitamin D supplements, start. You need a total daily intake of 1,200-1,500 mg of calcium and 800-1,000 IU of vitamin D after menopause because the older you are, the less your body naturally absorbs vitamin D.
- Get a Move On Bone is a living, changing material. It still responds well to weight-bearing exercises. Do 30 minutes of weight-bearing aerobic activities most days, and add strength training two or three times a week.
- Protect Yourself Add nonslip mats in showers and baths. Don't use step stools, which can be a recipe for disaster. Reorganize items so they're within easy reach. Add handrails and good lighting to staircases, and put grab bars near toilets and bathtubs.
- Maintain Balance Take up balance-improving activities, such as yoga, tai chi, or dancing. Try this simple exercise suggested by the National Osteoporosis Foundation: Stand, facing a countertop. Hold on to the counter and stand on one leg for 1 minute. Repeat with the other leg. Do this a few times a day until it becomes easy. For more advanced exercises, go to nof.org.
- Learn About Treatments If you are diagnosed with osteoporosis, you'll be pleased to know that treatment options have come a long way. One injectable drug, Forteo, can actually help rebuild bone. Other treatments include biphosphonates (Fosamax, Boniva, Actonel) and selective estrogen receptor modulators (Evista), all of which can slow the rate of bone loss.