Post Menopausal Osteoporosis: 3 Things You Should Know

Last updated 05.23.2024 | by Sabrina Johnson | 7 Minutes Read

This article has been reviewed and fact checked by Dr. Karen Pike, a senior physician administrator and board-certified emergency room doctor actively working in northern California. Read more at our medical disclaimer page.


As we age, our bodies undergo various changes that lead to potential health problems. One such concern, which affects both men and women, is osteoporosis. However, it is widely known that the prevalence of osteoporosis is higher among women than men (1).

Majority of women suffer from osteoporosis as their bone health decreases because of hormonal fluctuations during menopause. Studies have shown that globally, 30% of females over the age of 50 have osteoporosis (2).

It is crucial to take the necessary steps to control and treat post-menopausal osteoporosis. As a woman, I understand the importance of early diagnosis for menopause-related health concerns; this is why, in this article, I am going to discuss all about post-menopausal osteoporosis.

Read on to learn more about the condition, its symptoms, risk factors, and strategies for maintaining bone health.

Osteoporosis, simply put, is a condition where bones become weak and brittle, increasing the risk of fractures. It’s often called a “silent disease” because there are usually no symptoms in the early stages.

You might feel perfectly fine, unaware of the weakening happening beneath the surface. But then, a seemingly minor fall can have devastating consequences.

Now, let’s talk about the “post-menopausal” part. During menopause, a woman’s body undergoes a natural decline in estrogen production. Estrogen, among many other functions, plays a crucial role in keeping bones strong.

With its decrease, the delicate balance between bone breakdown (resorption) and bone formation gets disrupted. Bone resorption starts to outpace bone formation, leading to a gradual loss of bone density. This causes post-menopausal osteoporosis.

According to research, among the estimated American population with osteoporosis, 80% are women (3). Therefore, it is said that roughly half of all women over the age of 50 will experience an osteoporosis-related fracture in their lifetime.

Let me share a personal story:

My aunt, a cheerful and active woman in her late 60s, recently experienced a wrist fracture. It happened while she was gardening, a simple twist as she reached for a tool. The initial diagnosis was a simple fracture, but further tests revealed she had post-menopausal osteoporosis. It was a wake-up call for her.

Risk Factors for Post-Menopausal Osteoporosis

While menopause is the primary trigger for bone loss, several other factors can influence your risk of developing post-menopausal osteoporosis. Knowing your personal risk profile is key to taking a proactive approach to bone health.

Family History

This one hits close to home for me. Like many women, I learned about osteoporosis from a family member. My grandmother, a strong and independent woman throughout her life, suffered a hip fracture in her late 70s. The recovery was long and difficult, and it significantly impacted her quality of life. Later, we discovered she had osteoporosis, a condition that likely went undiagnosed for years.

Body Frame and Build

This might come as a surprise, but your body type can play a role. Women with a smaller frame or those who are naturally thin tend to have less bone mass to begin with. This puts them at a higher risk of losing bone density after menopause.

Diet and Lifestyle

What you eat and how you move your body significantly impact bone health.

Calcium and Vitamin D: These are the power duo for bone health. Calcium is the building block of bone, and vitamin D helps your body absorb it. Unfortunately, many women don’t get enough of either in their diet. A diet low in calcium-rich foods (dairy, leafy greens) and inadequate vitamin D intake (often due to limited sun exposure) can significantly increase the risk of osteoporosis.

Exercise: Regular physical activity, especially weight-bearing and strength-training exercises, is crucial for maintaining bone density.

Remember my aunt’s gardening incident? While gardening itself is a great activity, incorporating weight-bearing exercises like walking or dancing could have helped strengthen her bones and perhaps prevented the fracture.

Smoking and Alcohol: These habits are detrimental to overall health, including bone health. Smoking disrupts bone formation and increases bone breakdown. Excessive alcohol consumption can also interfere with calcium absorption and weaken bones.

Medical Conditions and Medications: Certain medical conditions, such as thyroid problems or rheumatoid arthritis, can also contribute to bone loss. Additionally, some medications, like long-term steroid use, can have a negative impact on bone health.

If you have any pre-existing conditions or are taking medications, it’s important to discuss bone health concerns with your doctor.

Symptoms of Post-Menopausal Osteoporosis

While there might not be any initial signs announcing osteoporosis, there are some red flags to watch out for:

Back Pain: This is a common symptom, but in the context of osteoporosis, it can be a sign of vertebral fractures. These tiny fractures in the spine can cause pain and even lead to a decrease in height.

I remember a friend of my mom, a woman who always seemed so tall, mentioning how she felt a little “shorter” lately. It turned out she had undiagnosed osteoporosis with vertebral fractures that had compressed her spine.

Loss of Height: This symptom can be gradual and hardly noticeable at first. However, a loss of height (more than an inch) can be an indicator of vertebral fractures.

Bone Fractures: This is the most serious symptom and often the first sign for many women. Osteoporosis weakens bones, making them susceptible to fractures, even with minor falls or bumps. The most common fracture areas are the hip, wrist, and spine.

Strategies for Maintaining Bone Health After Menopause

Maintaining bone health after menopause is crucial for preventing fractures and ensuring a strong, independent future. Some strategies you can incorporate into your life:

Diet

Calcium Power: Calcium is the building block of bone. For women over 50, aim for 1,200 milligrams (mg) of calcium daily. Excellent sources include dairy products, leafy green vegetables, fortified foods, and even some fish with edible bones.

Vitamin D: Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium. Most people get some vitamin D from sun exposure, but it might not be enough. Talk to your doctor about getting your vitamin D levels checked and taking supplements if needed.

Dietary Balance: A balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains provides essential nutrients for overall health, which indirectly supports bone health.

After learning about the importance of calcium and vitamin D, my mom made some simple changes to her diet. She started including a daily serving of low-fat yogurt with berries for breakfast and swapped out regular milk for fortified plant-based milk in her smoothies. These small adjustments can make a big difference.

Exercise

Weight-Bearing: Weight-bearing exercises like walking, jogging, dancing, or stair climbing help stimulate bone formation and slow down bone loss. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise most days of the week.

Strength Matters: Strength training exercises help build and maintain muscle mass, which improves balance and coordination and reduces the risk of falls and fractures.

Inspired by my mom’s commitment to exercise, I decided to join her for walks in the park a few times a week. It’s a great way to bond and get some exercise together. We even started incorporating some simple bodyweight squats and lunges into our routine.

FAQs

What is the biggest risk factor for post-menopausal osteoporosis?

Menopause is the primary risk factor, but other factors like family history and certain medications can also play a role.

What are some common symptoms of post-menopausal osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is often called a “silent disease” because there might not be symptoms in the early stages. However, potential symptoms include back pain, height loss, and bone fractures.

How can I maintain strong bones after menopause?

Focus on a diet rich in calcium and vitamin D, engage in weight-bearing exercises, and maintain a healthy lifestyle (quit smoking, limit alcohol, get enough sleep). Talk to your doctor about your individual needs and bone health strategies.

Conclusion

I hope this article on post-menopausal osteoporosis was useful. Now that you have an idea of the condition, symptoms, and methods to manage, start recognizing the signs and incorporating steps to minimize the problem. 

Menopausal women must take extra care of their bone health from the early stages of transition.

Author

  • Sabrina Johnson

    Meet Sabrina Johnson, a compassionate author and a seasoned expert in Obstetrics and Gynecology. She is a driving force behind Simply Menopause, where her extensive medical knowledge and empathetic nature come together to empower women in their menopausal journey. Sabrina offers culturally sensitive guidance and support through her approachable writing, making her a trusted friend on the path to menopause wellness.