Osteoporosis is a long term weakening of the bones caused by calcium loss. Hip fractures occur in only one in three thousand women at the age of twenty, but the risk is 1 in 50 between the ages of 45 and 85. Osteoporosis is the cause of this drastic increase. Eighty percent of hip fractures have the changes of osteoporosis found in the fracture. If you consider the fact that one third of the women who get a hip fracture will die within six months of the injury, osteoporosis is a very significant health problem.

The post-menopausal years have traditionally been the time when women have been most encouraged to increase their calcium intake to the 1200 mg recommended daily allowance, but by then it may be far too late! In several recent studies it has become apparent that even though the risk of fracture is very low in the teens, it is through those years that most of your bone strength is acquired. At the age of twenty, the bones of both males and females have their greatest mineral content. A study done last year that was in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) revealed that calcium intake in the teen years can effect the ultimate level of calcium in your bones when you grow older and therefore can influence your likelihood of getting osteoporosis for the rest of your life.

When a woman has passed the menopause, then the goal is to hang on to whatever bone mass she has. Unfortunately, just increasing calcium intake alone is not very helpful. The body does not absorb calcium effectively from the diet without the aid of estrogen and this hormone is not produced by the ovaries after "the change." Therefore, in the menopausal years, hormonal therapy in addition to calcium therapy is essential in preventing osteoporosis.

FRED CREUTZMANN, M.D. Ė CARROLLTON - 972-394-7277 or www.DrCmd.com

There have been some reports of a possible increased risk of breast cancer in women who have taken hormonal replacement. There have also been reports that suggest there may be a decreased risk of breast cancer in hormone users! What all this tells me is, if there is any effect on breast cancer risk, it is a very small one for the good or for the bad. A large study has also come out that showed an increase in the risks of heart attacks and strokes. Many of the participants were started on estrogen years after they became menopausal and I think this may have caused some of those results. In my personal opinion, the risks of taking estrogen are out weighed by the advantages it offers. Estrogen also lowers total cholesterol and increases HDL, the good cholesterol. If started at the onset of menopause some feel it may protect blood vessels. We can also discuss if estrogen may be beneficial for you.

Calcium is available in many foods, especially dairy products. Supplements exist that vary in price and some antacids are calcium rich. I can give you samples of some of these if you ask when you come by my office.

There are now also semi-estrogens that donít have some of the dangers of estrogen, but support bone. There is also a medication that hampers the cells in the body that break down bone in the body. This not only can prevent osteoporosis, but it can also be used to treat and reverse it.