Postmenopause, or the years following the last menstrual period, brings a new set of healthcare issues. Older women face increased risk for developing osteoporosis.
Women begin losing bone density as early as their 30s. After age 50, many women face a diagnosis of low bone mineral density (BMD) and eventually osteoporosis. Because there are no obvious symptoms, it often takes a bone fracture for a doctor to make a proper analysis.
Any osteoporosis related fractures tend to increase the chances of even more fractures. Women lose their independence not only their independence but in many cases, 20-25% post hip fracture patients lose their lives either as a direct or indirect cause.
A recent study in Switzerland examined the rates of postmenopausal osteoporotic fractures among menopausal and postmenopausal women. The findings were consistent with similar findings in Europe and North America. Some of the more revealing statistics indicate:
*After age 50, women have a 50-51% lifetime risk of experiencing a serious bone fracture.
*In Switzerland, vertebral or spinal fractures occur in 486 out of 100,000 postmenopausal women each year.
*Hip fractures after age 50 affect 621 per 100,000 women each year.
Advance age means the risks are even greater:
At age 50, about 121 out of 100,000 women will experience a hip fracture. Compare this to 1,537 out of 100,000 by the time a woman is between 80 and 85.
While there are treatment options available, prevention is the best way to help fight off osteoporosis. The younger a woman is when she develops good bone health habits, the better her chances for healthy bone aging. But it is never too late to take measures to improve and strengthen bone density.
Ideally, women should have peak bone mineral in their childhood, teen, and young adult years. During menopause, additional steps to help slow down the inevitable bone mineral loss will lead to healthier postmenopausal years. General recommendations include:
*Getting sufficient calcium intake; at least 1000 mg per day
*Supplementing calcium with Vitamin D; at least 800-1000 IU per day; and even upwards of 2000 IU for women over age 60
*A balanced diet with low levels of sodium, sugar, and fats
*Regular physical exercise, especially weight bearing activities such as walking and lifting small weights
*Reducing or cutting out the amount of alcohol consumption
The role of estrogen and osteoporosis treatment
For some women, prescribed hormone replacement therapy (HRT) helps strengthen bone density because of lower estrogen levels, especially in perimenopausal or early menopausal women.
Doctors may use the tool known as FRAX, a World Health Organization developed questionnaire that measures a patient’s 10-year fracture risk.
Preventing bone loss and osteoporosis are crucial for health living and independent aging. As the number of postmenopausal women grows in the coming decades, further research will ensure women spend more time being active in their later years and less time in the emergency department.
‘Postmenopausal osteoporotic fractures’ Birkhaeuser Martin (CH) – Leiter Abt. Gynaekolog, Endokrinologie, Universitats-Frauenlink, Inselspital – As presented at the IMS International World Congress on Menopause, Rome, 2011.
Keep track of your bone health! Menopause, Your Doctor, and You prepares you for your next doctor's appointment!