Menopause is also known as the climacteric. Menopause is a normal physiological process in a women’s life when the menstrual periods stop permanently. A women can no longer conceive after menopause. Menopause is said to have occurred when the menses does not appear for a year. During menopause, the level of hormones produced by the ovary falls down. Menopause occurs naturally with ageing but can also occur early after a surgery to remove the ovaries, due to premature ovarian failure etc. Bone health deserves a mention during menopause because there is a link between osteoporosis and menopause.
What Is Osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is a disease that weakens the bones. The bones become brittle and is subject to sudden and unexpected fractures. Even a mild stress, a fall where you would not normally expect the bones to break, they break in osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a silent disease, it progresses gradually without producing any symptoms. It is often after a fracture that you find out that you have osteoporosis. Once a bone fractures, there is an increased chance of more fractures to follow. The bones of the wrist, hip or spine are often the first to break. The bones have an outer trabecular structure surrounding an inner spongy layer. In osteoporosis, it is in this spongy layer that holes are formed that weakens the structure of the bones and causes it to break.
Relationship Between Osteoporosis And Menopause
The bones have a normal process of buildup and breakdown. Normally up to the age of 30 years, the process of building up of the bones is more than the breaking down. This keeps the bones in good health. After the age of 30 years the process of building up decreases slowly until eventually the break down exceeds the build up. During menopause there is a significant reduction in the production of the hormone oestrogen by the ovaries. This accelerates the osteoporosis. It can also be said that as much as half of total bone loss in the life of a woman occurs in the first 10 years following menopause.
There are certain risk factors for osteoporosis. Age is of course a risk factor. Early menopause due to any reason is another risk factor. Osteoporosis could also be hereditary. Certain medications aggravate osteoporosis. Diet does play a huge role in Osteoporosis. A women should include a diet which strengthen her bones, possibly from childhood. Petite and thin women, having lesser bone to lose are at a higher risk of developing osteoporosis.
Symptoms Of Osteoporosis
Osteoporosis is a silent disease, in that you do not notice that your bones are becoming weak, unless a mild stress or fall causes a fracture. The wrist, hips and spine are usually the first to be affected. The spinal fracture results in backache, loss of height. A spinal deformity could also occur. They could also cause disability or life threatening complications. Osteoporosis are usually identified through Bone Mineral Density examination. These are x- rays that use very small amount of radiation to assess bone strength. Not all the bones are x- rayed. Normally, the bones of wrist, hip or spine are studied.
How To Control Osteoporosis During Menopause
The aim should be to have a regular exercise plan. Do not wait until you reach menopause or even worse until you break a bone to start exercise. Include weight bearing exercise in your regimen. Walking, jogging, dancing or playing tennis etc. are also favourable options. Exercise strengthen not only the bones, but the muscles as well. Exercise helps in controlling bone loss. Exercise will also help deal with other menopausal troubles.
A healthy bone friendly diet should be started early, right from childhood. During childhood till the age of 30 years, the bone building process is very active. So the foundation for strong bones should be paid at this age itself. Strong bones require a calcium rich diet. The recommended daily intake of calcium is 1000mg. The foods rich in calcium are milk, dairy products, eggs, green leafy vegetables, fishes like salmon and sardines etc. There are also calcium fortified orange juice and calcium fortified flour available. Vitamin K is also known to help reduce fractures during menopause. Dark green leafy vegetables are again a great source of vitamin K. Fruits like grapes, kiwi, avocados and oils like soyabean oil also contain vitamin K.
3. Vitamin D:
Vitamin D deserves a special mention as vitamin D helps in the absorption of calcium by the body. Vitamin D is formed by the skin on exposure to sunlight. Spending at least 10 minutes a day in the midday sun without sunscreen could give the required vitamin D for the body. Fishes like tuna, mackerel, salmon, beef, liver, cheese, egg yolks are all good sources of vitamin D. There are also vitamin D fortified dairy products and orange juices available.
4. Calcium Supplements:
There are calcium supplements like calcium carbonate and calcium citrate. The daily intake of these supplements should not be more than 2000 mg as they can cause trouble otherwise.
Estrogen replacement during menopause aims to replace the estrogen that is reduced during menopause. It helps protect bone loss. But this therapy carries several risks and is only reserved for women at high risk for osteoporosis.
6. Lifestyle Changes:
Limit the alcohol consumption and smoking. These measures are said to help in controlling osteoporosis. Smoking is said to cause less estrogen production by the body.
7. Protect Yourself From Accidental Falls:
Keep your house clutter free. Clear things, throw rugs etc. from the floor where you are likely to trip and fall. You could also install bars on shower walls, besides the toilet etc. Install proper lighting in the house too.