Q. I have osteoporosis, and my doctor has recommended that I take a bisphosphonate drug. Is there anything else I can do to protect my bones and keep them strong?
A. Bisphosphonate drugs are a good option for treating osteoporosis, because they slow the breakdown of bone. They’re one of several drug treatments for the condition, which also include estrogen, raloxifene (Evista), and teriparatide (Forteo). Follow your doctor’s advice and stick to your drug regimen, but you don’t have to stop there.
Also make sure to get at least 1,000 to 1,200 milligrams (mg) of calcium each day, preferably from foods such as yogurt, broccoli, cheese, and tofu. Add to it 800 IU of vitamin D, which helps your body absorb calcium. Good sources include salmon and vitamin D-fortified milk.
Set time aside every day for 30 minutes of weight-bearing exercises, like walking, playing tennis, or dancing. The stress that you put on your bones when you do these kinds of exercises helps maintain bone mass. And if you smoke, get help quitting. Smoking speeds up bone loss.
As for alternative remedies, a few have been suggested for osteoporosis. Black cohosh and red clover have estrogen-like effects that might protect bones, but they may also have some of the same risks as estrogen. Talk to your doctor before trying any alternative treatment, to make sure it’s safe and won’t interact with medicines you’re already taking.
— Anne Fabiny, MD
Editor in Chief, Harvard Women’s Health Watch