The Risk Of Osteoporosis After Menopause [Best Ways to Avoid for Women]

risk of osteoporosis after menopause

Osteoporosis! A disease characterized by a low density of the bones is known to affect women more commonly after menopausal age. The risk of osteoporosis after menopause can continue to rise even after specific menopausal symptoms like hot flashes have subsided. [1]

This is why preventing bone loss is a cause of concern for women during and after the menopausal age. If you are passing through menopause or are nearing it, read on to learn the links between menopause and osteoporosis. We will also discuss the best ways to overcome menopause-linked osteoporosis. 

How does the risk of osteoporosis after menopause increase?

Menopause can significantly speed up bone loss, this loss leads to the bones becoming porous. The reduction of bone mineral density makes them prone to fractures. 

During menopause, the production of female reproductive hormones called estrogen and progesterone begins to fluctuate. 

Estrogen promotes the activities of osteoblasts, the cells that produce bone cells, ensuring your bones stay strong and healthy. As the estrogen levels drop during menopause, the osteoblasts lose their ability to produce new bone cells. [2]

Estrogen also plays a vital role in controlling bone loss. During their younger or premenopausal years, women are able to maintain their bone health due to the high estrogen levels in the body. Estrogen helps to maintain the high bone mineral density by slowing down the processes involved in the breakdown of bone tissue. 

The dual actions of estrogen, promoting bone formation and preventing bone loss, protects women against osteoporosis until they enter menopausal age. Estrogen helps in new bone production by supporting osteoblasts, the bone-producing cells, and prevents bone loss by inhibiting osteoclasts, the bone-destroying cells. 

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Estrogen levels decrease sharply during and after menopause. As a result, the process of bone loss is allowed to continue uninhibited. This results in faster bone loss, increasing the risk of osteoporosis. [3]

In short, during menopause, your body loses the shield of estrogens. Bones start losing cells without adequately producing new cells. [4]

These are the primary reasons why women are at risk of poor bone health and osteoporosis after menopausal age. 

Additionally, the fact that the bones of women are smaller and thinner than that of men, makes the risk even higher. [5]

The risk of osteoporosis is higher in menopausal women if they have had

  • Early menopause, before the age of 45 years
  • Undergone surgery for the removal of the ovaries
  • Received chemotherapy for cancer treatment

What are the complications of osteoporosis? 

Osteoporosis is a bothersome complication of menopause. This disease can increase your risk of fractures. The weakening of the bone tissues caused by osteoporosis can make bones prone to fractures. 

The bones in your legs, particularly the thigh and hip bones, are more likely to be affected due to menopausal changes. Porous bones do not have the strength to withstand the pressure exerted on your legs while walking or running. 

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The risk of fractures in these bones is higher in menopausal and postmenopausal women compared to women of other ages.  The risk may worsen further if women gain weight. Weight gain increases the pressure exerted on your bones while walking or running. A slight twist, a fall, or more pressure on these weak and porous bones can cause them to break resulting in a fracture. 

That is why menopausal women should take care of their bone health to avoid the risk of osteoporosis. 

Best way to avoid menopause-linked osteoporosis  

You can avoid the risk of osteoporosis by taking steps to improve bone health. Here’s how you can do it…

  • Calcium is a vital nutrient needed by your bones. It can help to promote the formation of new bone tissues and strengthen them. You can increase your intake of calcium-rich foods such as dairy products like milk and yogurt, dark leafy greens, salmon, and almonds.
  • If you do not like seafood and dairy foods, or if you suffer from lactose intolerance (a condition that results in a hypersensitive response to foods containing lactose such as dairy products), you can still ensure your body receives a good supply of calcium by consuming fortified foods like fortified breakfast cereals and calcium supplements.
  • Some fortified cereals are nutritionally enriched with vitamins and minerals like vitamin D and calcium. Eating these foods could help to maintain the strength of your bones and prevent fractures. Other fortified foods you can include in your diet are fortified whole-grain bread and calcium-fortified fruit juices.
  • Avoid weight-bearing exercises. Since your bones are prone to become weaker during this phase, you should avoid physical activities that put excessive strain on your leg bones. Such exercises include jumping, running fast, and skipping rope. However, you can safely perform exercises like walking, jogging, swimming, and cycling if you feel these exercises are well within the limits your physical stamina permits you. [6]
  • Physical activities that help to develop muscle strength and improve body balance are also encouraged to avoid falls and fractures. [7]
  • If women develop more intense symptoms of menopause such as hot flashes and increased sweating, hormone replacement therapy may be recommended. The therapy is aimed at replacing estrogens in the form of medications. Hormone replacement therapy can replenish estrogen levels and reduce bone loss. [8]
  • Make sure you get adequate sunlight. Sunlight offers the best natural source of vitamin D that your body needs to process calcium and strengthen the bones. Ensure your body gets enough exposure to sunlight to stimulate bone formation. 
  • Check your bone mineral density. Bone mineral density is a simple test that provides an indication of the density of the tissues in your bones. You can protect your bones against osteoporosis and fractures by assessing your bone health at regular intervals. 
  • Avoid smoking and limit alcohol intake as these unhealthy lifestyle habits can speed up bone loss and worsen the risk of osteoporosis. [9]

Conclusion

The increased risk of osteoporosis during and after menopause could be considered unavoidable given the natural decline in the production of estrogen during this phase. However, you can definitely avoid this risk by taking appropriate steps to improve your bone health. 

It is possible to minimize the impact of reduced estrogen production on your bones by improving your calcium and vitamin D intake. This will increase bone mineral density by supporting the activity of the bone-forming cells and reduce your risk of fractures.

References:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5643776/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4187361/
  3. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/0029784495004300
  4. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S8756328296002578
  5. https://www.nof.org/preventing-fractures/general-facts/what-women-need-to-know/
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6429007/
  7. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25166042/
  8. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S8756328296002578
  9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1858519

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