If you’ve crossed your 40s, you may be pretty familiar with osteoporosis—all thanks to the regular aches and pains that are slowly becoming a part of your daily life. To explain simply, osteoporosis leads to weak bones due to tissue loss.
When your body functions correctly, the old bone tissues wear down, making way for new tissues. Now, in osteoporosis, the equation changes. The old tissues break quickly but aren’t replaced by new bones instantly. This leads to thin bones, which are easily susceptible to fractures.
One is at a greater risk of this condition as they grow old. Women are more prone to osteoporosis than their male counterparts, mainly because of the hormonal changes they go through late in life, which impact their bone density. Over 10 million Americans have osteoporosis, of which around 80% are females.
Now let us understand how menopause is responsible for triggering osteoporosis and what are the preventive measures to know. Read on to learn more.
Why Does Osteoporosis Occur in Menopause?
Most of the symptoms or changes a woman goes through in menopause are due to the changes in hormone levels, estrogen in particular. Estrogen isn’t just a reproductive hormone but controls other body functions, including our brain, skeletal system, cardiovascular system, etc.
Now comes the connection between estrogen and our bones. It is essential to mention that estrogen is functional in helping the bones to grow and mature. In the menopause transition phase, the estrogen levels are on a decline. Their numbers dip drastically in menopause. That’s when bone health is impacted massively. Low estrogen levels make the bones break faster but rebuild slowly, resulting in immense bone loss.
Most women will begin experiencing changes in their bone health as they enter the menopause transition phase, which occurs from 40-44 years. The mean age for menopause is 45-55 years, with 51 being the average age in the United States. Women going through menopause prematurely (before 40) or early (before 45) will be susceptible to bone loss much earlier.
What Are the Symptoms of Osteoporosis?
The symptoms of osteoporosis are a little tricky. In most cases, you will only know that you have this condition once your bone is broken. Some noticeable symptoms that indicate the onset of osteoporosis include :
- Fracture by fragile bones; even a mild impact can cause the bones of your back, hip, wrist, and other areas to break
- There is a loss in height, over 2 inches at a time
- Receding gums, especially if the jaw loses bones
- Bent or stooping spine due to weak vertebrae
- Low back pain; osteoporosis doesn’t affect your back, but the spine weakens to the extent that it loses the ability to tolerate stress
Who is At Risk of Osteoporosis?
Women are at more risk of osteoporosis than their male counterparts. Postmenopausal women are the ones who are more susceptible due to their low estrogen levels. To be more specific, ethnicity plays a significant role in osteoporosis. Women of Asian and Caucasian descent are more prone to this condition. The main reason speculated is their low bone mass, thin stature, and less calcium intake.
7 Effective Tips to Prevent and Manage Osteoporosis After Menopause
If you’ve crossed your 40s, you may be pretty familiar with osteoporosis—all thanks to the regular aches and pains that are slowly becoming a part of your daily life. To explain simply, osteoporosis refers to the medical condition where the bones get fragile due to tissue loss.
1. Exercise Regularly
Maintaining a proper exercise schedule will not just help in keeping your bone health after menopause but will also boost your overall health. Spending at least 30-40 minutes 4-5 days a week will strengthen your muscles and bones. You will even be at a lessened risk of fractures and falls. When you plan to workout to better your bone health, keep the following exercises on your list. They include:
- Weight-bearing exercises such as running, dancing, walking, climbing stairs, and skipping should be on your priority list.
- Strength-training exercises like squats, dumbbells, push-ups, etc., will help keep your back muscles strong.
- Flexibility exercises involve stretches, which should be done slowly without much bouncing. However, never do stretches that need you to flex your spine or bend your waist. You may end up causing self-injury.
- Research has highlighted the benefits of yoga in minimizing the risk of osteoporosis. Practicing yoga regularly helped improve coordination and balance and increased bone density. Some of the yoga poses that yielded great results included tree pose, bridge pose, locust pose, etc.
However, consulting a healthcare provider before trying any pose is essential. If you already have a fractured bone, refrain from stressing it by doing any exercise.
2. Follow a Healthy Diet
Diet plays a significant role in not just building and strengthening bones. It is instrumental in boosting one’s overall health, mainly in menopause, when the hormones trigger many physical symptoms. Several nutrients, like Vitamin D, calcium, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, and protein, are instrumental in promoting bone health.
So you must include dairy products in your diet alongside green leafy vegetables like kale, collard greens, spinach, beet greens, etc. It would help if you also had fish, Brazil nuts, tofu, almonds, edible bones, oranges, figs, etc., to boost your nutrient intake. Your health will improve when you have a balanced and nutritious diet.
3. Quit Smoking
Smoking isn’t a healthy habit, and it is even worse in menopause, as it intensifies symptoms like hot flashes and sleep disorders. Smoking has an impact on bone health also. Studies show that smoking lessens the supply of blood to the bones. It even decreases calcium absorption, which is bad for bone health. So, when you are nearing menopause or have already hit the menopause phase, you must eliminate smoking to maintain sound health.
4. Limit Your Alcohol Intake
Increased alcohol consumption over a long time lessens bone density and intensifies the risk of fractures. Alcohol can even make other symptoms of menopause worse, like hot flashes, depression, sleep problems, and so on. So, it’s better to reduce your alcohol intake to no more than a drink a day as you near menopause.
5. Lessen Caffeine Intake
Like alcohol, excess caffeine consumption isn’t a healthy option during the menopause transition and menopause phase. Caffeine is said to have an impact on bone health as it disrupts calcium metabolism and also alters the responses of Vitamin D. Caffeine also worsens other menopause symptoms. So, replacing caffeine with healthier options like herbal or fruit teas would be better.
6. HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy)
Hormone replacement therapy effectively reduces hot flashes, vaginal dryness, and even bone loss. There are several courses of hormone replacement therapy that depend on how you have had your menopause.
While some women go through early menopause or premature menopause, a few may even experience surgical menopause. So, depending on your health condition, the doctor will advise for the HRT course apt for you. Hormone therapy has side effects, so before going for it, discuss the boons and banes well with the doctor.
7. Seek Medical Help
If you do not wish to opt for hormone therapies, and your bone loss problem isn’t improving even after trying lifestyle management techniques, you should talk to the doctor.
He may put you on medicine therapy. Bisphosphonates are a group of medicines effective in preventing bone density loss, thus helping treat and prevent osteoporosis after postmenopause.
Moreover, for women who are on glucocorticoids, which help in treating autoimmune diseases, hormone therapy alone won’t work to manage bone loss. The combined action of bisphosphonates is needed. There are alternatives to bisphosphonates, like calcitonin salmon and raloxifene. Some injectable medications like zoledronic acid also treat weak, brittle bones in postmenopausal women. However, never go for self-medication; always consult your doctor, who will help you decide the best option for you.
Most women will know they have osteoporosis once they have broken their bones. A bone mineral density test is needed for an accurate diagnosis, primarily for women over 65 years, those with several risk factors, and menopausal women with fractures.
The daily calcium intake a woman needs depends on her age. Here is an estimation:
0 to 6 months – 200 mg
7 to 12 months – 260 mg
1 to 3 years – 700 mg
4 to 8 years – 1000 mg
9 to 13 years – 1300 mg
14 to 18 years – 1300 mg
19 to 50 years – 1000 mg
51 to 70 years – 1200 mg
Over 70 years – 1200 mg
Osteoporosis after menopause will happen due to low estrogen levels. You cannot reverse the reasons, as reduced estrogen in your body will likely weaken your bones. But, by eating healthy and exercising well, you can work towards strengthening your bones and preventing further loss.
So, to sum up, you should always be vigilant when it comes to your bones. When you eat the proper diet to nourish your bones and even exercise regularly to keep them strong, there are fewer chances of bone fractures and loss. Moreover, if your family has had a history of osteoporosis, you will be more susceptible to this condition. So, you have to be extra cautious.