Bone Health and Menopause: Preventing Osteoporosis

Menopause, although a natural aspect of aging in women, can have effects on the body that require vigilance and care. In addition to changes in mood, sleep, and hot flashes, menopause can also affect bone health. During menopause, the ovaries begin to produce lower levels of estrogen to cause the menstrual cycle to stop. However, estrogen is also essential to slowing the natural breakdown of bone tissue that also occurs with age. With lower estrogen levels, a woman’s bones can become brittle, and highly susceptible to fracture, which is a condition known as osteoporosis. Although alarming, there are several steps you can take to prevent bone loss and disease.

Lifestyle Changes

One of the easiest ways to combat bone loss is through a diet rich in calcium and vitamin D. Calcium is necessary for bone strength, and cannot be properly absorbed without adequate levels of vitamin D. Good sources of calcium and vitamin D include dairy products and dark leafy greens.

Providers also recommend routine exercise for those at risk for osteoporosis, with an emphasis on weight-bearing exercises, in which the feet or arms are fixed to the ground. Exercises of this nature require the muscles to push and pull against the bones, which promotes the formation of new bone tissue. Weight-bearing exercises may include:

  • climbing stairs
  • leg presses
  • squats
  • pushups

Additionally, maintaining a healthy weight and avoiding smoking and alcohol consumption have been shown to reduce the risk of bone loss.

Symptoms and Treatment

If you have reached menopause, which is defined as 12 months after a woman's last period, you should remain aware of the following symptoms:

  • Back or neck pain
  • Height loss
  • Stooped posture

Osteoporosis develops over time, and as the disease progresses one can obtain a broken bone from a seemingly minor fall or injury.

In addition to lifestyle changes, your provider may recommend drugs and/or hormone therapies that work to prevent further bone loss and stimulate new bone formation. Such treatments are considered to be effective and are administered according to your risk of fracture and other factors pertinent to your health.

Consulting Your Provider

It's never too early to start taking care of your bones, and it's never too late to make positive changes for your future well-being. It’s also important to remember your healthcare provider is your ally in this journey, and together, you can build a strong foundation for lifelong bone health. If you are approaching or currently undergoing menopause, reach out to your provider to ask about your bone density and your risk for fracture. By maintaining an open and informed dialogue with your provider, you can navigate the menopausal transition with confidence and enjoy a healthy, active life for years to come.

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