Women's bodies can change a lot after menopause and one of the most ominous changes could be the development of osteoporosis.

Osteoporosis is a disease that occurs when bones become porous and brittle. The minerals that make up the bone become less dense, weakening bones and increasing risk for breakage.

While osteoporosis develops in both men and women, women are far more likely to develop the disease. That's because estrogen, which diminishes after menopause, contributes to bone resorption (breakdown) and new bone development. That results in bones that can break easily and vertebrae that can collapse or compress—which causes big problems for the elderly, who are at risk for balance issues and falling.

Getting Tested for Osteoporosis

Without special testing, you won't know you have it. There are no symptoms and it sometimes isn't diagnosed until you have evidence of easily breakable bones and painful vertebral compression. Bone mineral density (BMD) tests (which are x-rays) can determine bone density and the severity of osteoporosis.

When Should You Be Tested?

All postmenopausal women who have a fracture should be tested for osteoporosis. All women under 65 who have multiple risk factors for osteoporosis and all women over 65 should also be tested.

Osteoporosis Treatments

There are many ways to counteract bone loss and increase bone density:

  • Take calcium and vitamin D supplements to offset bone loss and help replace bone mineral.
  • Engage in weight bearing exercises to encourage bone growth.
  • Use estrogen therapy, when appropriate, to replace estrogen stores.

When more aggressive treatment is needed, doctors may prescribe medications to prevent bone breakdown, slow bone loss, increase bone density, and reduce the risk of fractures.

Medications include Calcitonin, a hormone involved in calcium regulation and bone loss, and Selective Estrogen Receptor Modulator medications, which have many estrogen-like properties to aid bone growth, but are considered a safer option than estrogen therapy for some women.

7 Tips to Prevent Osteoporosis

  1. Exercise regularly, and be sure to include strength training activities.
  2. Eat foods that are high in calcium, including dairy products, leafy green vegetables, and fish.
  3. Take calcium supplements, like calcium citrate and calcium carbonate.
  4. Take vitamin D for calcium absorption.
  5. Talk to your doctor about hormone replacement therapy.
  6. Quit smoking and avoid drinking too much alcohol, both of which are linked to osteoporosis.
  7. Ask your doctor if any of your medications can lead to bone loss.




National Institutes of Health Osteoporosis and Related Bone Diseases National Resource Center