Women over 50 should be aware that their bones are thinner and this begins as early as age 30. Osteopenia is a lower bone density due to age and some doctors prescribe bone building drugs for it. It is not as severe as osteoporosis.
An American study showed some time ago that some women are taking way too many drugs for osteoporosis. In short they are being over-treated for bone loss and these drugs have serious side effects. The gist of it is that many menopausal women may be taking drugs they don’t need.
The FDA in America has reported serious side effects of many of the bone-strengthening medications and that some women should not be taking them until they really need them. Whilst it is true that for women with osteoporosis, bone-strengthening medications can lower the chances of breaking a bone, experts argue that women with Osteopenia do not necessarily need the drugs. They are being taken at too early an age because women under 65 are being encouraged to have bone density tests which show a low result, they then start on the drugs earlier than needed.
Studies have shown that testing for bone density is really only effective for women over 65, yet it is recommended that women over 50 be tested even though they only have a 3% chance of a hip fracture from age 50-60 and only a 20% chance of fractures elsewhere.
An x-ray technique called DXA or DEXA shows how far below the norm you are with bone density and the norm is a healthy woman in her 30’s. The closer to zero the better the bone density. -1 or higher is normal and -2.5 or lower signifies Osteoporosis. Between -1 and -2.5 is Osteopenia or low bone mass.
Most women in their 50s have some form of Osteopenia. It is not a disease. It is a marker for the risk of fractures and does not need to be treated with drugs. The reality is that people take the test and then spend more time worrying about their health than actually being unhealthy. Studies show that there is no evidence that long-term use of preventative drugs in women with Osteopenia will prevent fracture however drug companies disagree. Since bone loss is a serious issue they argue the drugs lower risk of that fracture providing real benefits. The debate is whether it is better to wait for the bone loss to be significant before starting treatment or to start treatment to keep the current bone quality. Others argue that women should wait until the Osteopenia develops into osteoporosis.
The possible side effects of drugs for bone loss such as bisphophonates used in America which includes Alendronate (Fosamax), Etidronate (Didronel), Ibandronate (Boniva), Risedronate (Actonel) and Zoledronic acid (Reclast) are many. They range from gastric problems such as acid reflux, heartburn, esophagus irritation, nausea, vomiting, ulcers or bleeding to muscle, joint or bone pain, oesophageal cancer, crumbling jawbone, fractures which are atypical, increased heart rate. Possible side effects of oestrogen receptor modulators are hot flushes, cramps, and clots. Possible side effects of hormones such as estrogen or progesterone (Premarin for example) are stroke, blood clots or breast cancer.
It needs to be remembered there are many natural things women can do to increase and keep bone density. Exercise, healthy diet, no smoking, low alcohol consumption are all pointers the medical and complementary medical industries both agree upon. Jogging, tennis, dancing, weight-bearing and muscle-strengthening exercises all build better bones and prevent fractures as well as developing better balance. Vitamin D helps the body absorb Calcium which increases bone strength so if you don’t get enough sunshine or vitamin D in your diet you MUST take the supplement. The quantities of calcium and Vitamin D needed are quite high so it becomes very important. If you have a vitamin D deficiency you need to take at least between 2 and 4 1000iu daily until your tests register as normal.
Also get rid of the alcohol and cigarettes. Bottom line is that neither are good for your health and make sure you eat plenty of vegetables containing carotenoids. Which is worse? You weigh it up. Drugs? Or take your supplements? Those are your only choices.