Bone Health

Menopause comes with some mighty unpleasant symptoms. One of these symptoms is not really a symptom at all, but rather a serious medical condition called osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is sometimes called brittle bone disease.

Protective Effect

The female hormone estrogen has a protective effect on many body systems. As a woman goes into menopause, estrogen levels decline, increasing a woman's risk for bone loss. But there are measures a woman can take to maintain her bone health.

Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can help menopausal women protect their health by counteracting the depletion of estrogen levels. But many women worry about the supposed risks of HRT, even though these are now known to be quite minimal. Depending upon the age at which it is begun, and how long it is used, HRT comes with small risks for blood clots, breast cancer, vaginal bleeding, and heart disease.

Evista (Raloxifene) is a medication meant for the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis. This drug contains no hormones but does share some properties with estrogen. Evista's major benefit is in reducing bone loss while increasing bone density. Bone loss and the loss of bone density are the major (and quite dangerous) effects of osteoporosis.

Menopausal Symptoms

Unlike estrogen, Evista has no impact on the reproductive organs such as the breasts or the uterus, which means it can't cause cancer in these systems, nor can it cause vaginal bleeding or breast tenderness. On the other hand, because Evista isn't estrogen replacement, it can't give you relief from menopausal symptoms like hot flashes or vaginal dryness.

But Evista may bring benefits outside of maintaining bone health in the postmenopausal woman. In the course of a 4-year study on almost 8,000 postmenopausal women, it was discovered that 1,000 of the participants with high profiles for heart disease were on Evista. Out of this number, 40% not only lowered their cardiovascular disease profiles, but also benefited from a 62% reduced risk for fatal and nonfatal strokes. In addition to these benefits, it was found that these women had a 70% decline in their expected incidence for breast cancer.

What this means is that while Evista may not be able to do anything about vaginal dryness or hot flashes, it can help protect you from breast cancer, heart disease, and stroke, while maintaining your bone health. There is one potential serious side effect with Evista, however, and that is a slight risk for the development of blood clots. For this reason, women with a history of varicose veins or those who have had thrombophlebitis should not take Evista.

Evista is not for pregnant women or women before menopause. But for the vast majority of postmenopausal women, and certainly those with a high profile for breast cancer, heart disease, or stroke, Evista can be a terrific medication. Ask your doctor about Evista.