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Health A-Z

Medical Content Created by the Faculty of the
Harvard Medical School

Prevention

You can help to prevent osteoporosis by:

  • Getting enough calcium and vitamin D.

    • Eat foods rich in calcium, such as low fat dairy products, sardines, salmon, green leafy vegetables and calcium-fortified foods and beverages. Your doctor may also prescribe a calcium supplement.

    • You may also need to take a vitamin D supplement or a daily multivitamin.

  • Regularly doing weight-bearing exercises

  • Not smoking

  • Avoiding excess alcohol

If you are a woman who has recently entered menopause, talk to your doctor about being evaluated for osteoporosis.

Preventive Medications

There are several medications to prevent menopause-related osteoporosis. These include:

  • Estrogen replacement therapy (not routinely recommended)

  • Raloxifene (Evista)

  • Alendronate (Fosamax) and risedronate (Actonel)

Estrogen slows the breakdown of bone. The loss of estrogen during menopause leads to bone loss. Estrogen therapy helps to counteract this process. However, estrogen replacement therapy has fallen out of favor. That is because of side effects, including an increased risk of heart disease and stroke when taken by women more than 10 years past menopause.

Raloxifene (Evista) is an alternative to estrogen replacement therapy. It behaves like estrogen on bone to increase bone density.

Alendronate and risedronate are bisphosphonates. This family of drugs slows down the breakdown of bone. They can help bone to become thicker.

If a bone density test shows signs of a problem, it may help you to decide whether to begin taking a preventive medication. You should also measure your height every year, especially if you are a woman older than age 40.

Too much thyroid medication may lead to osteoporosis and other medical problems. Monitor thyroid medication regularly if you take it.

If you take prednisone, work with your doctor to reduce the dose to the lowest possible amount. Or, discontinue the medication if possible.

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From Health A-Z, Harvard Health Publications. Copyright 2007 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. All rights reserved. Written permission is required to reproduce, in any manner, in whole or in part, the material contained herein. To make a reprint request, contact Harvard Health Publications. Used with permission of StayWell.

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