Menopause and Osteoporosis
Menopause is a normal part of aging. It is not a medical condition or some sort of disorder or disease that women should be afraid of. However, it affects every woman differently. If you think you are experiencing menopausal transition, you probably wondered how bad it is or what its effects are. And while there are several effects of menopause on bodily organs, the most common talked about is osteoporosis. In this article, we will discuss menopause and osteoporosis, including hormonal changes and management.
Menopause and Menopausal Transition
Menopause usually starts one year after a woman's last period. It is a time when women can no longer bear a child or get pregnant.
The years leading up to this point is termed the menopausal transition. It is characterized by changes in monthly cycles, vaginal dryness, hot flashes, and other symptoms. It can start as early as age 45 and as late as 55. In some cases, it may occur at a later time and last between 7 to 14 years.
What happens during Menopausal Transition?
During the menopausal transition, also termed as perimenopause, the levels of estrogen and progesterone fluctuate. The changes in the levels of these two hormones, produced by the ovaries are the most common consequences of aging.
Besides hormonal levels, women’s bodies also begin to change. Weight increases easily, and bones start to become less dense, consequently making them prone to fractures.
During this period, too, the body begins to use energy differently, fat cells change, and women may gain weight more quickly.
What Triggers Menopause Besides Aging?
Menopause may occur even before the age of 45. It can be triggered when the ovaries or uterus stop working as they should. Without proper functioning of the ovaries or uterus, the levels of the hormones estrogen and progesterone will be affected.
Surgical removal of the ovaries, a.k.a hysterectomy, is one of these so-called triggers. If you have a surgical operation where your ovaries or uterus was excised, and you are not taking hormones; the signs and symptoms of menopause may show up early.
Menopause and Osteoporosis
Women going through cessation of the monthly period have a higher risk of developing a porous bone—medically termed as osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis is a condition where the bone becomes brittle due to bone density loss or decreased formation of new bone cells, or both.
Sign and Symptoms of Osteoporosis
As a result of brittle bones, the following signs and symptoms may be experienced by those who are affected:
A stooped posture
Back pain, secondary to a collapsed vertebra or fractured
- Bones that break much more easily than expected (may break from accidental falls)
- Difficulty or pain when moving, bending over or walking
- Loss of height over time
- Pinched nerve from spinal injuries
One or two of these symptoms may manifest depending on the severity of the bone disorder.
Complications of Osteoporosis
Besides the most common signs and symptoms of osteoporosis listed above, individuals who have this bone disorder also need to be aware of the possible complications of having porous bones.
Brittle backbones can cause the spinal column to crumble and collapse. This incident can be severely painful, one of the most serious and debilitating. It can occur anywhere in the spine but is common in the hips or lower area of the back due to fall accidents.
In some cases, fractures and breaking of bones happen even if you haven’t fallen. Since the spinal column weakens over time, it gives up to the point of crumbling, resulting in chronic back pain, stooping of posture, or loss of height, as evidenced by a hunched forward posture.
Can osteoporosis be reversed?
There isn’t a cure that can reverse osteoporosis. But, there are treatment options that can help halt and slow down its progression before it gets worse. There are also therapies and interventions that can manage the signs and symptoms of osteoporosis.
Management of osteoporosis
Here are some of the treatment options and prevention strategies to manage osteoporosis.
Increase daily intake of calcium
Calcium, the building block of the bone tissues, is essential in the prevention of bone diseases, particularly osteoporosis or brittle bones.
Our bones store 99% of the body’s calcium. In fact, bones act as a reservoir for maintaining calcium’s blood levels, which is vital in maintaining healthy muscles and nerves.
With aging, our bodies tend to absorb less and less calcium because of dietary changes, and the gut’s declining ability to process nutrient absorption.
Recommended daily calcium intakes
The recommended daily intake of calcium for most adult women is 1,000 mg per day. Although, this suggested daily allowance varies depending on which country you live in. The NIH, short for the National Institutes of Health, has a table of the average daily level of calcium intake to meet the nutrient requirements of all individuals of different ages, from specific individual ages to categories or ranges of age.
Sources of Calcium
The most common and readily available sources of calcium are milk and dairy products. Other calcium sources include:
- Calcium-fortified food (bread, cereals, fruit juice, mineralized water, soy beverages)
- Calcium-set Tofu
- Canned fish with edible bones
- Certain fruits like apricots, dried figs, and oranges
- Green leafy produce and vegetables such as bok choy, broccoli, curly kale, etc
- Nuts such as almonds and Brazil nuts
As you noticed, the recommended daily intake of calcium for adults aged 19 to 50 years is 1000 mg. It is much lower than what adolescents RDA of 1300 mg daily because calcium absorption declines with age. So, even if you take more than the RDA of calcium, your body can absorb only as much.
Increase Vitamin D intake
Additionally, vitamin D intake should be increased as well because it helps the body absorb calcium. Just be sure to consult with your doctor first before taking in any supplements.
Consider taking supplements for the gut such as probiotics
You may have heard of it before... probiotics. Yes, probiotics. According to studies, these probiotics, also known as the normal gut flora perform various functions essential for every person’s digestive health. In fact, their primary function is promoting digestive health.
Move your body and exercise
A moderate amount of stretching and exercise can help keep the bones, muscles, and the body to stay strong. The National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF) mentions two types of exercises that can benefit people with osteoporosis. One is called weight-bearing exercises, and the other is muscle-strengthening exercises.
Examples of weight-bearing exercises include:
- Brisk walking
- Climbing stairs
- Jumping Rope
- Use of elliptical training machines
- Use of stair-step machines
On the other hand, muscle-strengthening exercises can either be:
- Lifting your own body weight
- Rising up on your toes
- Standing and other functional movements
- Use of elastic exercise bands
- Use of weight machines
- Weight lifting
You can also join yoga classes and Pilates exercises, which can improve balance, flexibility, and strength.
Things to consider when exercising
Before doing any of the exercises or activities listed above, be sure to get an okay word from your primary health care provider because some movements may not be safe for porous bones.
For instance, if you use a jump rope and trip or fall on the floor, there will be an increased chance of a serious bone injury. The same goes for other activities listed above.
If you ask for a recommendation from your doctor, he or she might refer you to a physical therapist so you can get help from deciding or planning which kind of activities or exercises are safe and appropriate.
Remember, falls account for the high incidence of bone fractures, so it is better to be safe than sorry.
Consider taking hormonal supplements
For adult women, especially those in menopausal transition, hormone therapy can help reduce the effects or signs and symptoms of osteoporosis. Taking hormone supplements will help strengthen your bones and prevent further bone loss.
Be careful when you are outdoors
Injuries and accidents are more prone when people with osteoporosis are doing activities outdoors, which is why it is important to be careful when you are outside. Here are measures to prevent falls and injuries:
- Avoid going out in poor weather.
- Avoid slippery sidewalks or floors.
- Avoid wearing high-heeled footwear.
- Be careful walking in curbs with sharp edges or those that have been cut away for a bike or wheelchair access.
- Consider wearing protectors for the hip or hip pads for extra protection should you fall.
- During winter, you can bring a small bag of rock salt in your pocket so you can sprinkle them on streets that are slippery.
- Install handrails if your walkways are slippery.
- Keep your deck, driveway, porch, and walkways free of clutter, leaves, snow, or trash so you won’t slip over when you step on them
- Look carefully on the ground when walking. Polished marbles and tiles can be very slippery, as well as wet surfaces.
- Try to keep your hands free when walking outdoors so you can grab on rails if you accidentally slip or something.
- Turn on the lights in your front door or backyard when you are outside so that you won’t step into something and fall over.
- Use a cane or walker as necessary.
- Use flats or low-heeled shoes such as rubber shoes and footwear with tractions or have more solid footing
- When climbing stairs or escalators in malls, be sure to use handrails
There are many changes that happen to women with age. It is important to be aware and understand these changes that are happening in your body as you grow old and go through the menopausal transition.