One of the health events that come uniquely with female aging is menopause. But, menopause isn’t just characterized by strange mood swings, hot flashes and aging of the body. One of the more serious risks includes postmenopausal osteoporosis, which is characterized by drastic loss of bone mass.
What Is It?
Generally, the specific cause of osteoporosis is unknown. The term literally means “porous bones,” and is characterized by the dilation and multiplication of the holes in the inner, spongy bone tissue, making a person’s skeletal structure thinner and weaker. Since our body always reabsorbs calcium from our spongy bone tissue when the mineral runs low, osteoporosis can happen to anyone age 30 and older; our body, by that time, does not produce enough spongy bone tissue to keep up with the reabsorption.
The difference between regular osteoporosis and postmenopausal osteoporosis is that the latter happens specifically to females only, and has a direct relationship with estrogen in the female body (versus osteoporosis in male or premenopausal women, which have little to do with estrogen). In fact, women in general are at higher risk of osteoporosis compared to men due to menopause. During menopause, when menstruation stops, estrogen levels take a dramatic dip. Since this hormone is crucial in preventing bone loss, its absence multiplies a woman’s risk of osteoporosis.
Complications Of Postmenopausal Osteoporosis
Some debilitating complications of postmenopausal osteoporosis include:
- Increased chances of bone fractures and breaks
- Chronic and severe back, joint, and hip pain
- Collapse of vertebrae in the back (sometimes because your skeleton simply cannot hold your body’s weight any longer)
- Longer heal time for fractures and breaks
- Loss of height and deformed posture, such as hunchback or stooping
- Increased chance of breast cancer
How To Manage Postmenopausal Osteoporosis
Medically, there are a few options to treat and manage postmenopausal osteoporosis:
- Hormone replacement therapy: Doctors may choose to prescribe a series of hormone therapies for the patient to slow down the rate of bone reabsorption (bone loss). Estrogen therapy, for example, has been shown to be a successful method of treating postmenopausal osteoporosis.
- Bisphosphonate therapy: For those who do not want hormone therapy, treatment using bisphosphonates, a drug group which prevent bone breakdown, can also be an option for treatment.
- Other various prescription drugs: There is a myriad of other types of postmenopausal osteoporosis treatments, ranging from injections to nerve receptor blockers. Since each person’s situation is different, the doctor may choose to have different approaches to treatment. Ask your doctor today for treatment options that can suit you.
Tips For Prevention
For women who have not experienced menopause yet or who are in high risk groups, here are some tips you may want to employ as a precautionary measure:
- Get a bone mineral density test. For women who are experiencing menopause or are at high risk of postmenopausal osteoporosis, this is a good test to run to determine if your body is showing signs of postmenopausal osteoporosis.
- Exercise regularly. Regular exercise leads to the formation of strong muscles that can help support weak bones later down the line. Weight bearing exercise also helps strengthen bones and retain bone mass. Eat a nutritious diet along with exercise for maximum effects.
- Have adequate calcium and vitamin D intake. You request vitamin D and calcium level checks during your annual well woman blood tests to see if you are deficient. While calcium is a no-brainer to building bone health, vitamin D is also essential, as it helps increase the absorption rate of calcium into making bones. Be sure to take supplements if your regular diet does not contain enough of both nutrients.
- Avoid smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol, and caffeine excessively. Studies have shown that smoking is directly related to detriments of the bones. Too much alcohol also contributes to accelerated bone loss. Too much caffeine, also, can decrease bone mass; for those who must need their daily cup of java, be sure to limit to only one cup per day, and drink it with plenty of milk for calcium and vitamin D boost.
Lifestyle Changes That May Help Management
For those who already have postmenopausal osteoporosis, the above “tips for prevention” can be modified and still adopted to help alleviate complications. Other lifestyle chances that can help with managing postmenopausal osteoporosis include:
- Keep your living environment “fracture-safe” by removing rugs (which may cause you to trip) and installing handles and safety precautions in bathrooms, or where needed.
- Start weight bearing exercises, or adopt a hobby that involves lots of activity, such as gardening.
- See your doctor often, at least annually, to regulate the rate of osteoporosis.
- Start or continue to take calcium and vitamin D supplements.
Now that you know more about managing postmenopausal osteoporosis, be sure to take care of yourself and your loved ones.