Menopause and Osteoporosis: How Are They Linked?

Menopause and Osteoporosis: How Are They Linked?

Osteoporosis is a condition that weakens your bones and sometimes leads to fractures in your body. Many older people are at risk for this condition, especially post-menopausal women. In fact, menopause plays a huge role in the development of osteoporosis in women.

At Southern Pain Specialists, we’re experts when it comes to osteoporosis and its treatment. Dr. Kenneth Varley is our pain management specialist who offers treatments for patients living with osteoporosis. In this blog, we explore the link between menopause and osteoporosis.

Understanding menopause

Menopause is the period in your life when you can no longer become pregnant or carry a child. This time is marked after you’ve gone 12 consecutive months without having a menstrual cycle. 

Menopause is a natural progression in a woman’s life, as hormones begin to change, allowing your menstrual cycle to finally end. However, because of these hormonal changes, menopause also comes with sometimes uncomfortable symptoms and medical issues.

Your body usually reaches menopause around age 50, but it can occur anytime in your mid to late 40s or 50s. This transition in your life often begins slowly and lasts for several years before you’re completely in menopause. 

Estrogen and progesterone are the two hormones that play a vital role in your fertility and your menstrual cycles. As you age, these hormones begin to decline as your ovaries make less of them. This normally begins in your late 30s and continues until you hit perimenopause.

Understanding osteoporosis

Your bones are constantly being remodeled — meaning old bone gets broken down and new bone forms. When you’re young, your bones keep up well with this process. However, as you get older, your bone often begins breaking down more quickly than it can form new bone, which leads to problems like osteoporosis.

Osteoporosis is a condition that leads to your bones becoming more porous and brittle. The inside of your bones looks a lot like a sponge, and the spongy bone has tiny holes in it — but with osteoporosis, those holes become larger and more numerous, which causes the bones to lose strength.

The main complication of osteoporosis is suffering broken bones very easily. This is because the condition not only weakens your bones, but also makes them much less dense.

Unfortunately, there aren’t really any early symptoms of osteoporosis. In fact, it’s usually discovered when you suffer a fracture, usually in your wrist, spine, or hip.

How are menopause and osteoporosis linked?

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 20% of women over age 50 are affected by osteoporosis. This is in comparison to only 5% of men the same age. One of the main reasons women are affected more by osteoporosis than men is due to menopause.

Estrogen is a vital component to keeping your bones healthy. While this hormone is needed for fertility and your menstrual cycles, it also protects the bones by slowing down the process of bone breakdown.

When you’re in menopause, your estrogen declines significantly, which can wreak havoc on your bone health. During this time, your bones begin to break down more quickly than normal, causing weakened, brittle bones that are highly susceptible to fracture.

Preventing and treating osteoporosis

Just because you’re going through menopause doesn’t mean you have to accept that you’ll get osteoporosis. Dr. Varley can recommend lifestyle modifications, such as exercise and foods that include calcium and vitamin D, to help you ward off osteoporosis or manage it if you’ve been diagnosed.