Osteoporosis is the medical term for progressive bone loss. At least 44 million people in the United States suffer the effects of osteoporosis, and the risk increases with age. As we get older, we tend to lose bone mass, and our bones tend to get thinner and weaker. But it’s a more accelerated and severe process for some people, notably older women. Right after women go through menopause, they tend to lose bone mass very quickly. Although the loss does eventually slow, the loss does continue--and it greatly increases their risks for fractures and injuries. The Hormone Factor What’s the connection between menopause and osteoporosis? Your body continues to build bone until you reach a certain high point, sometimes called “peak bone mass.” This usually occurs around age 30. Your bones have reached their maximum density and strength, and for a few years, you maintain that level of bone mass. But then menopause begins to approach, with all the hormonal changes in tow. As your estrogen levels drop, your body begins to resorb, or break down, more of the bone that’s produced. The breakdown of bone outpaces the building of new bone. After a woman finishes menopause, she may rapidly lose a lot of bone for a few years. Eventually, that rapid loss does slow down, but she will have lost a significant amount of bone mass. She becomes vulnerable to developing osteoporosis. And her risk of fracturing a bone increases. Prevention of Further Bone Loss If you’re already past menopause, you may be wondering if there’s anything you can do at this point to slow down or stop the loss of bone. The answer? Absolutely. The most effective osteoporosis strategies for you include: Exercise. Cardiovascular exercise is good for you in many ways, but to improve your bone health, you really need to incorporate strength-training exercises like working out with light weights in combination with exercises to improve your balance and flexibility like yoga. Consult a trainer or exercise professional for suggestions on the best exercises for you to try. Eat a healthy diet. No surprises here! Embrace a well-balanced diet that includes lean protein to help you build bone, as well as low-fat dairy and plenty of leafy green vegetables. Boost your calcium intake. Your body loses calcium every day, and you need that calcium to keep your bones healthy. If you’re over 50, you need at least 1,200 mg of calcium each day. Consider a vitamin D supplement. Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium better. If you’re not getting enough vitamin D in your diet--a typical daily recommendation for adults is 200 to 600 international units--a vitamin D supplement could help. As with any supplement, be sure to run it by your doctor before adding it to your daily regimen. None of these strategies will halt bone loss. But they can slow the progression of osteoporosis, which can decrease your risk of fracturing your bones. Treatment Options When you receive a diagnosis of osteoporosis, you may want to raise the question of possible treatment options with your doctor. Many doctors suggest starting with exercise and diet modifications, but there are a few treatments that may be appropriate for you. Bisphosphonates. Bisphosphonates are a class of drugs that can help postmenopausal women reduce their risk of bone fracture and build bone mass.Side effects are rare, too. Some can be taken weekly, while others may only require a monthly dose. There’s also a bisphosphonate that can be given as an annual infusion. Calcitonin. This medication, which can be taken via injection or nasal spray, can also help slow bone loss. Estrogen replacement therapy (ERT). You may already be taking some type of ERT if you’ve completed menopause. It’s often recommended for women who are at high risk for osteoporosis, but it does carry some other risks, so be sure to have a good conversation with your doctor about those. Selected estrogen receptor modulators (SERMs). As their name implies, these drugs selectively block the effect of estrogen in certain cells. You’re probably more familiar with them as treatments for breast cancer, since tamoxifen is one well-known SERM. But another major benefit of SERMs is to increase bone mass. However, they also can have serious side effects, so you will want to discuss the pros and cons with your doctor. Bone-building medications. Teriparatide (Forteo) has been on the market for about 15 years, and it was recently joined by abaloparatide (Tymlos). These medicines are designed to build bone in men and postmenopausal women with severe osteoporosis. Getting Screened It’s not a bad idea to learn about your bone health if you haven’t already, especially if you have a family history of osteoporosis. Many women undergo a bone density screening around menopause. Your doctor can perform several different types of tests, including the low-dose x-ray technique called bone densitometry. If you do receive an osteoporosis diagnosis, then together you can create the best path forward for keeping you and your bones healthy and safe.