We have all heard the stories: an older woman falls and breaks a hip. Her life is never the same—or worse yet, her life is soon over. There is a reason these stories are so common. Not only does osteoporosis occur with epidemic frequency in aging adults, but its impact can be catastrophic. As the population ages and people live longer, osteoporosis is increasingly being recognized as a public health crisis.
Throughout our lives, bone undergoes a constant construction cycle. Osteoporosis occurs when the rate of bone breakdown exceeds the rate of new bone growth. This weakens the microarchitecture of the skeletal system and makes bones more apt to break. Developing an understanding of the mechanism of osteoporosis and its prevalence in postmenopausal women provides actionable information. Indeed, with the right strategies, osteoporosis can be treated or even prevented. When combined with a healthy diet and appropriate exercise, nutritional supplements for elderly women may be one of the best ways to protect bone health.
Understanding the Risk of Osteoporosis for Women
The numbers are staggering: researchers estimate that osteoporosis affects 16% of men and 30% of women over 50, and those numbers rise to 46% in men and 77% in women over age 80. Among individuals with osteoporosis, 42% of men and 65% of women will sustain a fragility fracture—following a fall from standing height—after the age of 60.
The impact of osteoporosis on quality of life in the elderly population has been compared to the devastatingly serious effects of diabetes. In addition to limiting independence and causing pain and disability, researchers have determined that elderly adults who sustained a fragility fracture had a two-fold risk of premature death. This risk was greatest in the 12-month period following the fracture and was higher in cases of a hip or vertebral fracture. Though aging is an osteoporosis risk factor for both men and women, the negative effects are seen 5-10 years earlier and the lifetime risk is greater in women, whose smaller bones and increased risk of falls predispose them to fractures. With the number of hospitalizations for fragility fractures far exceeding the number for heart attacks, strokes, or breast cancer, it is clear that taking charge of your bone health is a worthwhile endeavor for every woman.
The Best Nutritional Supplements for Elderly Women
Today, there is both more interest in and options available to care for bone health than ever before. Preventing osteoporosis is always preferable to trying to treat it once the disease has set in, but even when damage has occurred, corrective action is still possible. To strengthen your bones, you must ensure that bone growth and rebuilding keeps pace with bone breakdown.
Preventing and treating osteoporosis means providing the necessary building blocks to support bone preservation and regeneration. This includes nutrients gained through your daily diet. However, supplements can also play a critical role in protecting bone health, particularly those at increased risk of developing osteoporosis or who have already been diagnosed. By integrating the following nutritional supplements, you can fortify your long-term wellness:
Adequate intake of the mineral calcium is essential for bone health. Experts recommend 1200 mg per day for postmenopausal women and agree that dietary sources—such as dairy products, dark leafy greens, nuts, and seed—are best. For those who do not get adequate calcium from diet alone, however, calcium supplements are an ideal way to reach your daily goal.
Vitamin D supports calcium absorption in the intestines and is involved in the continuous cycle of bone growth and resorption. Along with calcium, vitamin D has been identified as the most crucial nutrient for the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis. Though somewhat limited in dietary sources, vitamin D is created in the body by the conversion of cholesterol when skin is exposed to sunlight. However, fears of skin cancer have caused people to limit their sun exposure, making vitamin D supplementation a safer, more feasible option to ensure adequate intake. The National Osteoporosis Foundation recommends ensuring a daily intake of 800-1000 IU from dietary sources and supplements to support bone health.
Magnesium is another mineral necessary for building bone, as it supports the body’s regulation of calcium and vitamin D. Significantly, researchers have found an association between low levels of serum magnesium and osteoporosis in postmenopausal women, suggesting that optimizing intake may be particularly important during this time. The recommended daily value of magnesium for postmenopausal women is 320 mg. It can be added to the diet by consuming nuts and seeds, legumes, dark chocolate, and leafy green vegetables. Magnesium supplements offer a means of ensuring that this important mineral is adequate for optimal bone health.
A 2017 meta-analysis of research on the effect of dietary protein on osteoporosis found that high-protein diets had a protective effect on bone mineral density, specifically in the lumbar spine. This data confirms that adequate high-quality protein intake—20-25 g at each meal—is important to maintaining healthy muscles and bones, supporting physical activity, and protecting against osteoporosis. This can be obtained by eating a 3 oz portion of lean meat or fish or 2 eggs. Other dietary sources include dairy products, nut butters, and beans and legumes. For women who are vegetarian or vegan, however, protein supplements may be essential to achieving the recommended amount.
In addition to calcium, vitamin D, magnesium, and protein, there are a number of other key nutrients that contribute to bone health. These include potassium, phosphorus, vitamins A, B12, C and K2, and zinc.
Finding the Right Supports
It is evident that the risk of osteoporosis and debilitating fractures is a clear and present danger for postmenopausal women. But it’s never too late to protect yourself; it is possible to take charge of your bone health by developing an awareness of the dangers and take preemptive action.
As a preventive or remedial strategy, nutritional supplements for elderly women are an accessible means of fortifying the bones and improving bone health. As part of a comprehensive strategy with a balanced diet and weight-bearing exercise, safeguarding your bones with nutritional supplements is one of the most important protective actions a postmenopausal woman can take. Hormone replacement therapy also has a bone-protective effect and is used by many women as part of a long-term strategy to prevent osteoporosis. Consulting a practitioner who specializes in aging adults can help you determine the best course of action, create a balanced treatment strategy, and give you the support you need to feel your best as you age.
If you want to know more about how to support your health as you age, BodyLogicMD can help. The BodyLogicMD network is comprised of top medical professionals specializing in aging and hormone health. A BodyLogicMD-affiliated practitioner will design a personalized plan and to help you achieve your health goals using the best therapies available today. Contact a local practitioner to schedule your first appointment, or take the BodyLogicMD Hormone Balance Quiz today.
Disclaimer: These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. All content on this website is for informational purposes only. The content is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent diseases.
Charlotte is a patient care coordinator specializing in bioidentical hormone replacement therapy. She is committed to helping patients who struggle with the symptoms of hormonal change and imbalance explore their treatment options and develop effective strategies to optimize wellness.