By Apollo 24/7, Published on - 15 June 2021
Menopause, which marks the end of a woman’s menstrual periods, normally happens between the age of 45 and 55 years. As women reach menopause, the drop in the oestrogen hormone levels contributes to the development of osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a bone disease that decreases bone strength, increasing the risk of fractures. Research shows that women can lose about 20% of bone mass in the first five to seven years post-menopause. While menopause is inevitable, osteoporosis can be prevented by making healthy lifestyle modifications.
Osteoporosis (meaning porous bones), is a bone disease that develops due to a decrease in bone mass and bone mineral density. Osteoporosis is an age-related disease that is more common in women than men due to the hormonal changes at menopause that affect bone health. Osteoporosis frequently occurs in women aged 65 and above. In the early stages, people with osteoporosis may not experience any symptoms. However, as the condition progresses, one might experience back pain caused by a fracture, stooped posture, and loss of height over time. Also, the weakening of the bones causes them to break more easily. A fall, bending over to lift an object, or even coughing and sneezing can cause fractures in people with osteoporosis.
Oestrogen, a female sex hormone, plays an important role in bone health. The hormone protects the bones and helps to keep them strong. When the oestrogen levels drop, the bones become less dense and more fragile. Hence, the development of osteoporosis is more common in women as it is directly linked to oestrogen deficiency. Oestrogen deficiency happens in women during menopause, a natural change that occurs during a woman’s life.
The hormone levels may also get lower in teens and young women who often miss their periods. With low oestrogen levels, most women lose bone density and may not have stronger bones. However, the drop in oestrogen levels that happen around menopause, causes rapid bone loss. Menopause occurs when the ovaries stop producing oestrogen. While menopause is said to be attained when the periods stop completely for a year, the monthly periods become less regular before reaching menopause (perimenopause).
Perimenopause is about four years on an average. Hence, bone loss can start even before menopause and speeds up with the declining oestrogen levels, causing a 10% bone loss during this period. However, rapid bone loss occurs after menopause, particularly during the first five to seven years, after which bone loss becomes slow. A reduction of 20% bone density can occur during this time, and the weakened bones increase the risk of fractures in the spine, hips, shoulder, and wrist.
The body continuously replaces old bone tissue with new bone tissue. However, with the drop in oestrogen levels, bone loss outpaces bone formation, causing osteoporosis. Women are at even higher risk due to factors that include:
Additional factors affecting osteoporosis include:
Bone loss that happens during menopause can be prevented by following a few simple steps that include:
Osteoporosis is a major concern amongst postmenopausal women. Studies show that lifestyle changes can have a significant impact on bone density. Measures adopted early on in life such as maximizing peak bone mass and preventing bone loss around menopause are key to preventing osteoporosis. However, in women at a greater risk of developing osteoporosis, early detection and treatment are crucial in reducing the risk of osteoporosis-related fractures. Hence, women aged 65 years and older and those younger than 65 years with risk factors are recommended to get a bone mineral density scan done regularly.
For any questions on musculoskeletal health including osteoporosis, you can talk to an orthopaedician.
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