Calcium and other minerals and vitamins must be taken by mouth to be absorbed and laid down in the bones Diet is therefore of importance. We should all eat foods rich in calcium. The body requirement is covered by 900 mL of milk per day (full or skim milk) or 600 ml of milk and 30 g of cheese. Foods rich in calcium are cheese, yoghurt, egg yolks, green vegetables and nuts – the ingredients of any good diet. If your diet is adequate, you will be obtaining some calcium from other foods, and 600 mL of milk is then sufficient.
It is a difficult task keeping in shape at this time, so milk, eggs, nuts and cheese may not be eaten in sufficient quantities, if at all.
To prevent bone loss, particularly in those women with a family history of osteoporosis, calcium supplements of about 1 g each day should be taken if the diet is deficient in milk, even before the menopause. Calcium should be taken only after consultation with your doctor as overdosage can produce problems elsewhere, for example the formation of kidney stones. Studies at both the Royal Women’s Hospital and Prince Henry’s Hospital in Melbourne showed that 75 per cent of women had insufficient calcium in their diet.
Alcohol and smoking
Bone loss is also accelerated by excessive alcohol consumption, and it is known that heavy smokers lose bone twice as rapidly as non-smoking menopausal women. This is said to apply also to men who smoke.
Prevention and treatment
It is up to you to cut down on alcohol and cigarettes, exercise well, and have a diet rich in calcium foods. This may need supplements if your diet is restricted for weight reduction or maintenance. Oestrogens are not universally prescribed for all women, as the benefits must be weighed against the side-effects.
It is important for women who have had an early menopause, either naturally occurring or artificially induced, to take oestrogens at least into their fifties (when they would normally have reached the menopause), in order to prevent bone loss.