Hot flashes and night sweats can make you miserable, but they’re not the most worrisome health concerns after menopause. When estrogen production drops, nearly every system in your body is affected, and one of the most dramatic changes takes place in your bones.
You can lose 20% of your bone density in the five to seven years after you reach menopause. Since you start losing bone long before menopause, this rapid loss of estrogen can quickly lead to osteoporosis.
At Pacific Rheumatology Medical Center in Orange and Laguna Hills, California, we specialize in helping women prevent osteoporosis. We also craft individualized lifestyle and treatment plans to strengthen your bones after the disease develops.
Bone loss naturally occurs in adults
By the time you’re 30, your bones have reached their peak mass. After that, your body simply tries to maintain the same strength and density through a process called remodeling. During remodeling, your body systematically removes old or damaged bone and replaces it with new bone.
Around the age of 40, however, the balance shifts. That’s when you start losing bone faster than your body can produce new bone. Without taking active steps to reverse this, your bone density keeps diminishing, and you end up with osteoporosis.
Menopause increases your risk for osteoporosis
Remodeling normally occurs at a gradual pace. The process accelerates, however, when women reach menopause and their ovaries stop producing estrogen.
Why does estrogen have such a significant effect? Because it’s the primary hormone responsible for regulating bone metabolism.
Estrogen promotes new bone growth. The hormone also regulates the production of the bone matrix, which is the mix of minerals and collagen that create bones.
Additionally, estrogen minimizes bone loss by inhibiting bone resorption and controlling the cells that break down bone. In other words, you need normal estrogen levels to ensure your bones stay strong.
Osteoporosis doesn’t cause symptoms
You won’t know you have osteoporosis because it doesn’t cause any symptoms. For most women, the first sign of osteoporosis is a broken bone. In fact, about half of all women suffer a fracture after menopause.
Healthy bones break due to significant force or trauma. By comparison, osteoporosis makes your bones so weak and brittle that fractures occur from normal movements. For example, lifting a heavy object, a minor bump, or the strain of coughing can cause a broken bone.
Preventive steps to take before and after menopause
One of the best ways to prevent osteoporosis is to build strong bones before menopause and keep them healthy after menopause. You can do that through diet and exercise.
The first step is be sure your daily diet supplies enough calcium and vitamin D. We can help you with information about healthy eating plans and determining if you might need supplements
You also need to engage in weight-bearing exercises, such as walking, running, playing tennis, and dancing. The force of muscle movement triggers new bone growth. With regular exercise, your bones become stronger and denser.
If you’ve already reached menopause, it’s important to talk with us about when you should have a DEXA bone scan. DEXA uses enhanced X-ray technology to evaluate your bone density and measure bone loss.
The information obtained from a DEXA scan allows us to diagnose osteoporosis and determine your risk of developing a fracture. Then we can create the customized treatment you need to prevent or treat osteoporosis.
If you have any questions about osteoporosis, or you need to schedule an appointment, call the nearest Pacific Rheumatology Medical Center office or book an appointment online.