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Osteoporosis and Menopause

What is osteoporosis? What causes this disease?

  • Osteoporosis is a bone disease that occurs when the body loses too much bone, makes too little bone, or both. As a result, bones become weak and may break from a fall or, in serious cases, from sneezing or minor bumps.

  • Osteoporosis is often called a silent disease because one can’t feel bones weakening. Breaking a bone is often the first sign of osteoporosis or a patient may notice that he or she is getting shorter or their upper back is curving forward.

  • Your bones are in a constant state of renewal as new bone is made and old bone is broken down. When you're young, your body makes new bone faster than it breaks down old bone and your bone mass increases. After the early 20s this process slows, and most people reach their peak bone mass by age 30. As people age, bone mass is lost faster than it's created.

  • How likely you are to develop osteoporosis depends partly on how much bone mass you attained in your youth. Peak bone mass is somewhat inherited and varies also by ethnic group. The higher your peak bone mass, the more bone you have stored and the less likely you are to develop osteoporosis as you age.

  • Senile osteoporosis is osteoporosis that’s caused by aging when other possible secondary causes are excluded.

  • A lifelong lack of calcium plays a role in the development of osteoporosis. Low calcium intake contributes to diminished bone density, early bone loss, and an increased risk of fractures. Eating disorders also play a role as severely restricting food intake and being underweight weakens the bone.

  • Certain steroid medications, either off-the-counter or prescribed, can lead to an increase in the chance of weakening bones, so make certain of the medication’s side effects before taking these.

What are the signs/symptoms of osteoporosis and what are the impacts of this disease?

  • People with osteoporosis are at a high risk of fractures, or bone breaks, while doing routine activities such as standing or walking. The most commonly affected bones are the ribs, hips, and the bones in the wrists and spine.

  • The early stages of osteoporosis don’t cause any symptoms or warning signs. In most cases, people with osteoporosis don’t know they have the condition until they have a fracture.

  • If symptoms do appear, some of the earlier ones may include:

    • receding gums

    • weakened grip strength

    • weak and brittle nails

    • Back pain, caused by a fractured or collapsed vertebra

    • Loss of height over time

    • A stooped posture

    • A bone that breaks much more easily than expected

  • Some risk factors for osteoporosis are out of your control, including:

    • Your sex: Women are much more likely to develop osteoporosis than are men.

    • Age: The older you get, the greater your risk of osteoporosis.

    • Race: You're at greatest risk of osteoporosis if you're white or of Asian descent.

    • Family history: Having a parent or sibling with osteoporosis puts you at greater risk, especially if your mother or father fractured a hip.

    • Body frame size: Men and women who have small body frames tend to have a higher risk because they might have less bone mass to draw from as they age.

  • Osteoporosis is more common in people who have too much or too little of certain hormones in their bodies, leading into the next topic: menopause.

What is menopause? What causes this disease?

  • Menopause is the time that marks the end of your menstrual cycles. It's diagnosed after you've gone 12 months without a menstrual period. Menopause can happen in your 40s or 50s, but the average age is 51 in the United States. Menopause happens to all women who have periods, unless the ovaries were surgically removed before puberty.

  • Menopause is a natural biological process. But the physical symptoms, such as hot flashes, and emotional symptoms of menopause may disrupt your sleep, lower your energy or affect emotional health.

  • As you approach your late 30s, your ovaries start making less estrogen and progesterone, the hormones that regulate menstruation, and your fertility declines which eventually causes periods to become longer or shorter, heavier or lighter, and more or less frequent, until eventually, on average, by age 51, your ovaries stop releasing eggs, and you have no more periods.

  • There are many factors that help determine when you’ll begin menopause, including genetics and ovary health. Perimenopause occurs before menopause. Perimenopause is a time when your hormones begin to change in preparation for menopause.

  • It can last anywhere from a few months to several years. Many women begin perimenopause some point after their mid-40s. Other women skip perimenopause and enter menopause suddenly.

    • Common causes of induced menopause include:

      • bilateral oophorectomy, or surgical removal of the ovaries

      • ovarian ablation, or the shutdown of ovary function, which may be done by hormone therapy, surgery, or radiotherapy techniques in women with estrogen receptor-positive tumors

      • pelvic radiation

      • pelvic injuries that severely damage or destroy the ovaries

What are the signs/symptoms of menopause and what are the impacts of this disease?

  • In the months or years leading up to menopause (perimenopause), you might experience these signs and symptoms:

  • Irregular periods

  • Vaginal dryness

  • Hot flashes

  • Chills

  • Night sweats

  • Sleep problems

  • Mood changes

  • Weight gain and slowed metabolism

  • Thinning hair and dry skin

  • Once in menopause (you haven't had a period for 12 months) and on into postmenopause, the symptoms may continue for an average of four to five years, but they decrease in frequency and intensity. Some women report their symptoms last longer. The most common symptoms include: Hot flashes.

There are many, many more symptoms relating to menopause, these are just a few of the most common ones. The combination of these symptoms can cause anxiety or depression.

How is osteoporosis more likely to happen in post-menopausal women?

  • Osteoporosis affects men and women of all races. But white and Asian women, especially older women who are past menopause, are at highest risk.

  • Why? There is a direct relationship between the lack of estrogen during perimenopause and menopause and the development of osteoporosis. Early menopause (before age 45) and any prolonged periods in which hormone levels are low and menstrual periods are absent or infrequent can cause loss of bone mass.

    • Estrogen protects your bones. When you reach menopause, your estrogen levels drop. In some cases, this decrease in estrogen can lead to bone loss.

  • During the first few years after menopause, you may lose bone density at a rapid rate, increasing your risk of osteoporosis. Postmenopausal women with osteoporosis are especially susceptible to fractures of their spine, hips and wrists.

  • Due to almost all women getting menopause, osteoporosis mostly impacts women in their late ages. Both menopause and osteoporosis cannot be fully cured, but there are treatment procedures for both diseases which can help a person live a longer, healthier life. (scroll down to the Treatments/Prevention/Resources section).

The Stigma Around Menopause:

While it may seem silly to think that the menopause causes any threat whatsoever (at least, to anyone who isn’t experiencing it), it’s important to remember that the stigma around the menopause has been building for a long time.

Like mental illnesses, the menopause was considered something scary, something problematic, something that had to be kept hidden, and even something harmful to society.

Today, menopause is still fairly unknown to many.

Because of this, it continues to be difficult to destigmatize, since it has been ongoing for so many years. The biggest solution is to continue talking about it, despite the discomfort it may cause.

The more we educate the public about the menopause and the more we open up about our own experience, the more normal it will become in society, because it is normal in the first place.

Breaking the stigma requires open discussion and clear information. It is such a normal and commonplace event in a woman’s life, it should be treated like a normal and commonplace concept in society.

Statics of osteoporosis and menopause:

  • According to global statistics from the International Osteoporosis Foundation, about one-tenth of women aged 60 have osteoporosis, while two-fifths of women aged 80 have the disease.

  • About 54 million Americans have osteoporosis and low bone mass, placing them at increased risk for osteoporosis. Studies suggest that approximately one in two women and up to one in four men age 50 and older will break a bone due to osteoporosis.

  • Osteoporosis is responsible for two million broken bones and $19 billion in related costs every year. By 2025, experts predict that osteoporosis will be responsible for approximately three million fractures and $25.3 billion in costs annually.

  • About 1 percent of women begin menopause before the age of 40, which is called premature menopause or primary ovarian insufficiency. About 5 percent of women undergo menopause between the ages of 40 and 45. This is referred to as early menopause.

  • An estimated 75 percent of women experience hot flashes with menopause.


  • Early menopause can't usually be reversed, but treatment can help delay or reduce the symptoms of menopause. Researchers are investigating new ways to help women who are in menopause to have children. Check out this link for the latest updates on treatments:

  • Menopause requires no medical treatment. Instead, treatments focus on relieving your signs and symptoms and preventing or managing chronic conditions that may occur with aging. Treatments may include: Hormone therapy.

  • There are lots of ways for women in menopause to decrease their chances of developing osteoporosis by protecting and strengthening their bones.

    • Exercise Regularly

      • In general, exercise can help your bones by:

        • Slowing the rate of bone lost

        • Improving muscle strength

    • Improving balance

      • Try to include weight-bearing activities—exercises that involve working your body against gravity, such as walking and dancing—in your routine, suggests the OWH.

    • Eat Foods That Promote Bone Health

      • Calcium and vitamin D are important nutrients for bone health.

      • You can get calcium through foods as well as supplements. Vitamin D is also found in some foods and supplements, and you can get it from spending time in the sun.

    • Other nutrients that are good for your bones include:

      • Vitamin K

      • Vitamin C

      • Magnesium

      • Zinc

      • Protein

        • In addition to calcium and vitamin D, milk contains lots of these nutrients. Other foods, such as lean meat, fish and leafy green vegetables, also have many nutrients that promote bone health.

    • Don’t Smoke

      • Smoking isn’t just bad for your lungs. It can actually increase your risk of getting osteoporosis. Smoking can decrease your body’s estrogen levels, making you more vulnerable to bone loss in the process.

    • Limit Alcohol Consumption

      • Not only does alcohol may make it more difficult for your body to properly use calcium. The National Osteoporosis Foundation suggests limiting alcohol consumption to no more than 2-3 drinks per day.

Written and Researched by LAKSHMI POTTURU


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