Osteoporosis   Breast Cancer      Ovarian Cancer      Heart Disease 

Warning Signs of a Heart Attack



Osteoporosis is a disease in which bones deteriorate, become less dense, and are more likely to break. If not treated, it can result in broken bones, also known as fractures, that occur usually in the hip, spine, and wrist.

Any bone can be affected, but of special concern are fractures of the hip and spine. A hip fracture almost always requires hospitalization and major surgery. It can impair a person's ability to walk unassisted and may cause prolonged or permanent disability or even death. Spinal or vertebral fractures also have serious consequences, including loss of height, severe back pain, and deformity.

National Osteoporosis Foundation



It is a common myth that people should increase their calcium intake. Mostly, they are encouraged to take supplements and to drink more milk. But milk may not "do a body good." The highest rates of osteoporosis are in the industrialized Western nations~the biggest consumers of milk. It turns out that keeping strong bones depends more on preventing calcium loss than on increasing calcium intake.

Calcium in the Body

Almost all of the calcium in the body is in the bones. There is a tiny amount in the blood stream which is responsible for muscle contraction, maintenance of the heartbeat, and transmission of nerve impulses and other functions. Hormones control the amount of calcium in the blood. Everyone constantly loses calcium through urine, sweat, and feces, and it is renewed with calcium from the bones. In the process, the body constantly breaks down and rebuilds bones. Ultimately, the body's calcium is replaced by calcium from food.

Reducing Calcium Loss

Since the 1920's researchers have known that diets that are high in protein, especially animal protein, cause calcium to be lost through the urine.1 In nations with high rates of osteoporosis, protein intake is generally high~usually more than twice the U.S. Recommended Daily Allowance.

Vegetarians have lower rates of osteoporosis than meat eaters. This may be due to the lower protein intake of vegetarians. Different types of protein also affect this loss. Meats are overly high in protein and are high in a particular kind of protein building block, called sulfur- containing amino acids. These cause increased calcium loss.

Caffeine and sodium also increase the rate at which calcium is lost through urine. Alcohol inhibits calcium absorption and may also be toxic to bone. Vitamin D, copper, zinc, manganese, fluorine, and boron are all essential for good bone formation, and weight-bearing exercise also increases bone mass and helps to prevent osteoporosis. Boron appears to help stop the loss of calcium. The best way to get boron is through fruits, vegetables, and beans.

The Need for Calcium

Throughout life, people's calcium needs change. Until about age 35, people consume more calcium that their bodies lose. But around age 45, the body begins to slip into "negative calcium balance"~slowly the body loses more calcium than it takes in. As shown above, how rapidly calcium is lost depends, in part, on how much protein is in the diet, and the kind of protein it is. The loss of too much calcium can lead to "soft bones," or osteoporosis.

Fighting Bone Loss

Most studies have shown that high doses of calcium do not slow bone loss. In fact, many populations with high intakes of calcium also have high rates of osteoporosis, probably because their high protein intake causes significant calcium loss.

Some African cultures consume no dairy products and typically get only 175 to 475 milligrams of calcium per day (800mg is the U.S. RDA), but they have low rates of osteoporosis. Rates of hip fracture among different populations is one way researchers measure the prevalence of osteoporosis.

One such study of ten nations revealed that as calcium intake increased, so did the number of hip fractures. Such studies have also led researchers to believe that exercise and other factors have more to do with preventing osteoporosis than calcium intake does.

Absorbing Calcium

The body carefully regulates its calcium absorption. The average person absorbs 30 to 70 percent of the calcium she or he eats, but the more calcium taken in, the less the body will absorb. This is to protect the body from overdosing on calcium.

At the U.S. RDA of 800mg, the body may absorb as little as 15 percent of the total amount. This may be one reason that high calcium intake does not generally prevent bone loss. While milk is a source of calcium, it certainly is not the ideal way to get your daily dose.

Dairy products, with the exception of skim products, are loaded with saturated fat. Fat is directly related to heart disease and cancer. Dairy products are also high in protein. There are other reasons to worry about milk, too.

Cows are routinely fed antibiotics. These are then passed directly on to the milk drinkers; antibiotics are detectable in one out of three cartons of milk. Many people are also allergic to milk, and over three-fourths of the world's population is lactose-intolerant, which means their bodies lack the enzymes necessary to digest milk.

Great Sources of Calcium

Dark green vegetables, such as broccoli and collard, mustard, and turnip greens are much better sources of calcium than milk. A single cup of broccoli contains almost a fourth of the U.S. RDA of calcium. Another good source is calcium-fortified orange juice. Beans and tortillas are also good sources of calcium.

Some people do need hormone treatments and/or calcium supplementation for varying conditions. The risks and benefits should be discussed with one's doctor.


Calcium is an essential nutrient and is needed for healthy bones particularly during childhood and adolescence. While it is uncertain how much calcium is actually needed, it is certain that diet affects calcium balance. Calcium supplements are not the best way to control osteoporosis for most people. A diet that is modest in protein, complemented by exercise, is much more effective. Green leafy vegetables and beans are good sources of calcium that are also moderate in protein and very low in fat.

Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine

P.O. Box 6322 Washington, DC 20015

(202) 686-2210


Breast Cancer


Recommendations for decreasing breast cancer risk:

  • Keep weight under control.

  • Control intake of fatty foods.

  • Do not expose yourself to mutating chemicals, (Smoking, Drinking in excess, pesticides).

  • Avoid radiation when possible. (X-rays, health care workers, nuclear industry).

  • Stay healthy: Take vitamins, exercise regularly, avoid depression.

  • Get regular check-ups, including a mammogram at regular intervals after age 40.

  • Regularly examine breasts for lumps and/or soreness.

  • If you think something is wrong, get it checked early.

The Environmental Issue:

  • Several recent scientific studies have indicated that pesticides such as DDT and other organochlorines are implicated in breast cancer.

  • These studies have begun to document the estrogen-mimicking properties of many organochlorines and other chemicals, causing concern in the scientific community that these toxins can heighten breast cancer risk.

  • A 1994 NYS Department of Health report found an association between living near chemical facilities on Long Island and the risk of breast cancer in post-menopausal women.

  • In Isreal, which aggressively began phasing out organochlorine pesticides in 1978, the breast cancer rate dropped during the 1980s by 8%.

For general information and referrals:

  • National Cancer Institute's Cancer Information Service (CIS) at 1-800-4-CANCER

  • American Cancer Society at 1-800-ACS-2345

  • National Alliance of Breast Cancer Organization (NABCO) at (800) 719-9154

  • Y-Me Hotline at 1-800-221-2141


Ovarian Cancer

Gilda Radner Familial Ovarian Cancer Registry

Toll Free Hotline 1-800-OVARIAN (1-800-682-7426)

Department of Gynecologic Oncology at Roswell Park Cancer Institute

Phone (716) 845-3110 Fax (716) 845-7608

Help Line for High Risk Women

A telephone support service run by volunteers from the Gilda Radner Familial Ovarian Cancer Registry. This support service is offered by high risk women for women at risk of developing ovarian cancer and for women considering prophylactic oophorectomy. To access this support service, dial 1-800-OVARIAN and leave a request for a Help Line volunteer to contact you. Help Line volunteers periodically respond to all requests.

Roswell Park Cancer Institute Cancer Information Service

Provides general information on all types of malignancies, including ovarian cancer

1-800-4-CANCER (1-800-422-6237)

Society of Gynecologic Oncology Referral Service

Provides the names of gynecologic oncologists, physicians who specialize in the treatment of women's cancer, in your area


Heart Disease


National Women's Heart Health Day Statistics

  • Heart disease is the number one killer of American women.

  • Every year, an estimated 485,000 American women die of cardiovascular disease (heart attack and stoke), more than twice the number who die of all forms of cancer combined.

  • An estimated 240,000 women die annually of heart disease, five times the number who die of breast cancer.

  • Women suffer nearly half (49 percent) of the 480,000 heart disease deaths that occur each year.

  • More women than men die of heart attack within the first year of their first heart attack (44 percent versus 27 percent).

  • More women than men will suffer a hearth attack within four years after their first heart attack (20 percent versus 16 percent).

  • Heart attacks kill nearly 21,000 women under the age of 65, and over 29 percent of them are under the age of 55.

  • One in eight women age 45 and over has had a heart attack.

  • Black women have a 33 percent higher death rate from coronary heart disease than white women, and a 77 percent higher death rate from stroke.

  • Coronary heart disease is a major risk factor for stroke, which kills over 87,000 women each year.

  • An estimated nearly 1 million Americans are currently living with heart defects. Some defects occur more commonly in women and can remain undetected until well into adulthood, putting their lives at risk.

Statistics from The American Heart Association and 'The Woman's Heart Book' by Fredric J. Pashkow, M.D. and Charlotte Libov.

Risk Factors For Heart Disease In Women

  • Age (Past Menopause)
  • Family Medical History
  • Race (Although heart disease is the biggest killer of all women, African-American women may develop it earlier)
  • Abnormal Blood Cholesterol Level
  • Diabetes
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • Lack of Exercise
  • Stress

    Heart-Smart Tips

    • If you smoke, do everything you can to quit. There is nothing better you can do for your heart.
    • Buy a fat gram counter and trim the fat from your diet.
    • Get your blood pressure checked. If you have high blood pressure, resolve to take your medication.
    • Know your family's medical history. Knowing if you had a parent or sibling who developed heart disease before the age of about 50 can motivate you to make positive changes in your lifestyle.
    • Learn the risk factors for heart disease. They include a family history of early heart disease, cigarette smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes, high blood cholesterol, obesity and a sedentary lifestyle.
    • Start an exercise program. Even brisk walking can go a long way towards keeping your heart healthy. Remember though, if you are an older woman or have a heart problem, talk to your doctor before embarking on an exercise program.
    • The combination of cigarette smoking and oral contraceptives can be lethal. If you smoke and are on 'the pill' talk to your doctor immediately about another birth control alternative.
    • Learn the early warning signs of a heart attack. Remember though, in women, these symptoms may be more subtle, such as shortness of breath, nausea and fatigue.
    • Taking brisk walks or jogging is great for your heart but remember, safety first. Always walk or run with a companion and stay in well-lit areas.

Adapted from 'The Woman's Heart Book: The Complete Guide to Keeping Your Heart Healthy and What To Do if Things Go Wrong' by Fredric J. Pashkow, M.D. and Charlotte Libov, published by Plume.


Heart Attack Warning Signs

Uncomfortable pressure, fullness, squeezing, aching under the breastbone, or pain in the center of the chest lasting for more than two minutes.

Other common places for pain to be felt: shoulders, neck, jaw, arms, or inside arms and shoulders (left side more frequently than right), upper abdomen, (often mistaken for indigestion), and between shoulder blades.

Chest discomfort with lightheadedness, fainting, dizziness, clamminess, sweating, nausea, vomiting, anxiety, or shortness of breath.

If you believe you may be having a heart attack, call 911, take aspirin and lay down.


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Some symptoms may also be associated with thyroid, heart disease and other medical conditions and your primary caregiver should be consulted.

The information found on these pages is for informational purposes only and not intended to take the place of professional medical care.

This site was created by Judy Bayliss, originator and owner of the Menopaus Email Support Group

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