Menopause occurs when a woman no longer has her period for a full year. While menopause can occur in a woman’s 40s, these days the average age is 51 for women in the US. With the drop in estrogen production that occurs with menopause, many women experience hot flashes, vaginal dryness, night sweats, and other unpleasant symptoms. Of course, another concern that OBGYNs have for menopausal women is the onset of osteoporosis, a condition that causes a weakening of the bones.
Osteoporosis can happen to anyone
You don’t have to have a family history of bone disease to be impacted by osteoporosis. While a family history of bone disease can certainly put you more at risk, we also see many otherwise healthy women develop osteoporosis during their perimenopausal and menopausal years.
Other risk factors for osteoporosis include:
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- Sedentary lifestyle
Menopause increases your risk for osteoporosis
While not all menopausal women will develop osteoporosis, one in two postmenopausal women will have osteoporosis. This is because estrogen protects the bones, and as estrogen production drops this also increases the chances for osteoporosis. It’s also important that women during this stage of life are getting enough calcium to keep their bones healthy.
If you aren’t sure that you are incorporating enough calcium into your diet, it’s important to talk with your OBGYN about whether or not to supplement. The body also needs enough vitamin D to absorb calcium, and with the number of Americans with vitamin D deficiency and suboptimal levels, it’s also important that you have your vitamin D levels checked regularly to make sure you are getting enough.
There are preventive measures you can take now
Most women assume that once they have osteoporosis there is nothing they can really do to prevent permanent damage. This is simply not true! Ways of strengthening and supporting good bone health include:
- Getting regular exercise that includes weight-resistance training
- Eating a healthy diet that includes enough calcium and vitamin D, as well as protein, magnesium, vitamin C, and vitamin K
- Quitting smoking, if you are currently a smoker
- Limiting alcohol consumption or avoiding it altogether
If you are at a higher risk for developing osteoporosis, you’ll want to talk with your OBGYN about the possible benefits of medications that can help to either prevent or manage osteoporosis.
If you are experiencing symptoms of menopause, you must have an OBGYN that you can turn to for care, support, and answers during this time. An OBGYN can also provide you with the right treatment options to help prevent and manage osteoporosis.