Menopause and osteoporosis go hand in hand in the minds of many women. But while menopause is a something we all go through, you should know that excessive bone loss isn’t.
Why you lose bone in menopause
Hormonal changes during menopause disrupt your body’s natural bone building process.
On average, a woman loses 10% of her bone mass during the menopause transition. While most women have enough bone mass to handle this loss just fine, added risk factors like poor diet, family history and lifestyle can lead to excessive bone loss of up to 20%.
Researchers found most bone loss occurred during one year before and two years after a woman’s last period. These three years are an important window of time for bone protection that you need to take advantage of.
You can reduce extra risk factors for bone loss in menopause
You can do a lot to preserve your bone density — and even increase it — in the years leading up to menopause and following it just by taking control of your risk factors. Since you don’t know exactly when your last period will take place, it’s best to get started now.
1) Your nutrient needs change in menopause. Unfortunately, most of us are also chronically deficient in vitamin D, which your body needs to absorb calcium and limits bone breakdown. I recommend every woman have her vitamin D level tested at least yearly — it’s not very costly.
2) Lose weight without losing bone. Weight gain — especially around the middle — can be a big problem for women in menopause. But certain weight loss efforts can harm bone. Weight loss trends such as eating diets high in animal protein and/or fat can also lead to a loss of calcium in the urine. If you’re going to lose weight, do so slowly (1-2 pounds a week) and include some form of weight-bearing exercise in the mix to foster bone strength.
3) Reduce physical and emotional stress. Our bodies are under enormous physical and emotional stress during hormonal transitions such as puberty and menopause. Stress causes us to release higher levels of the fight-or-flight hormone cortisol, which can lead to increased programmed cell death in bone-building cells. Over the years, excessive cortisol can weaken our bones.
4) Manage hormonal fluctuations. Extreme hormonal fluctuations are not only bone-damaging, but they can also cause difficult menopause symptoms such as hot flashes, irritability, and low energy.
One of the ways to manage the symptoms associated with menopause is to replace the hormones you are losing with one of the several types of prescription drugs known as hormone therapy (HT).
Need some advice managing menopause? Speak to Dr Gan if you would like to learn how to manage hormonal fluctuations. Find out more during your next health check.
If you haven’t had your health check done in the last 24 months, I would like to urge you to do one today.