Have you had experience with osteoporosis? For some women, menopause symptoms such as hot flashes and mood swings are more of an annoyance and discomfort; for others, they can significantly interfere with daily life. Regardless of their severity, the silver lining is that these symptoms are typically temporary and can be relieved through treatment options such as hormone replacement therapy.
Other symptoms, however, can have long-lasting adverse effects on your health. Research indicates a direct link between menopause and osteoporosis. Our team at Chapel Hill Gynecology wants to ensure that women learn the necessary information to know what could be happening in their bodies.
What is Osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is a disease of the bones that causes bones to become weak and break easily. Although you can develop osteoporosis at any age, it more commonly affects older adults because bone loss happens naturally as we age. The disease affects an estimated 10 million Americans. Due to various factors, including menopause, osteoporosis is much more prevalent among women. Of those diagnosed with the disease, an estimated 80% are women. It affects one in four women aged 65 or older in the United States.
There are many different causes, but today we are discussing the implications of osteoporosis regarding menopause.
How are Menopause and Osteoporosis Connected?
A leading contributor to bone loss is very low levels of estrogen, a hormone that plays an important role in building and maintaining your bones. As women go through menopause, reproductive hormones, including estrogen, drastically decline. In fact, research indicates that some women lose up to 25% of bone mass in the first 10 years after menopause. The longer a woman experiences low estrogen levels, the lower her bone density is likely to be.
Other factors relating to ovulation that increase a woman’s risk of osteoporosis include premature menopause (before age 45), irregular periods, and extended periods without a menstrual period.
Symptoms of Osteoporosis
Osteoporosis is considered a “silent disease” because you can be asymptomatic for years while the disease progresses. That is why it is important to understand the possible signs, as they may not jump out at you.
Early warning signs of osteoporosis include:
- Brittle fingernails
- Receding gums
- Weak grip strength
- A decrease in overall fitness
Once your bones have begun to weaken by osteoporosis, symptoms may include:
- Loss of height
- Stooped posture
- Back pain caused by a fracture or collapsed vertebra
- A bone fracture that occurs more easily than expected
What You Can Do
Many uncontrollable risk factors are associated with osteoporosis, such as gender, age, and family history. Additionally, you cannot prevent menopause. But, you can take preventative measures to help slow the natural bone loss of aging. This includes getting enough calcium and vitamin D, staying active, not smoking, and limiting alcohol consumption.
For women going through menopause, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is a common treatment method to help manage their symptoms. HRT can also help prevent it.
Continued HRT post-menopause can be beneficial to replace the estrogen that was lost during menopause and preserve bone health. This is also important in finding a doctor you feel comfortable with and who can answer all your questions.
Contact Chapel Hill Gynecology
Hormone replacement therapy is often recommended for women who have multiple risk factors for osteoporosis, experienced early menopause, or are determined to have low bone density based on testing.
Having completed additional training beyond board certification, Dr. Karen Clark is a certified menopause practitioner. She is able to deliver expert care to women experiencing perimenopause and menopause, primarily through the management of hormone therapy. To schedule an appointment at Chapel Hill Gynecology, call (919) 960-2720.