Bones don’t age as well as we’d like, and that can raise the risk of a serious health problem after even a minor tumble. This is typically due to a bone disease called osteoporosis that occurs when bones lose mineral density and mass, becoming more brittle. Osteoporosis is called a silent disease because many people don’t even know they have it until they break a bone. That is why providers recommend bone density screenings — X-ray tests that measure levels of calcium and other minerals in bones — as their patients get older.
Your hormones can also affect your bone health. Women are more likely to develop osteoporosis when the hormone changes experienced in the years before, during and after menopause are added to other risk factors.
Menopause-Induced Hormonal Changes
During perimenopause and menopause, you experience all sorts of changes. The most obvious are the wide variety of annoying symptoms. Hot flashes, vaginal infections and sleep problems are common. You may struggle to remember things or hold your urine. Suddenly, your cool, calm demeanor is on vacation. Instead, you’re left dealing with mood swings, anxiety or depression.
What’s the cause of these symptoms and more? Hormone changes. As you move through menopause, your body does a lot of things differently. That includes producing estrogen and progesterone at unpredictable rates. This ebb and flow of hormones causes menopause’s telltale symptoms. It also quietly causes increased bone loss. Hence the link between hormones and osteoporosis.
Connecting Hormones and Osteoporosis
Calcium and vitamin D are essential for strong bones. Without them, women can rapidly lose bone density, especially during the years after menopause. Equally as important are your hormones. While multiple hormones aid in bone health, one is particularly important for women.
That hormone is estrogen. Known for helping women develop breasts and maintain a proper menstrual cycle, estrogen also plays a vital role in bone health. In fact, it’s one of the most important hormones for bone strength and durability. This is a problem when you transition to menopause, the time of life when estrogen levels drop. When they do, your bone density may do the same. For some women, the bone loss is rapid.
Though postmenopausal women are at risk for hormone-related osteoporosis, certain factors increase the risk. Women who enter menopause with larger frames are less likely to get osteoporosis compared to women with small body frames.
Correcting the Hormone Imbalance
Fortunately, bone loss that causes osteoporosis isn’t inevitable. You can take action today to promote strong bones tomorrow.
No matter what your age or stage, good bone health begins with the same recommendations, including:
- Eat a healthy diet, full of calcium and vitamin D
- Get regular exercise (try for at least two and one-half hours each week)
- Limit daily alcohol intake to no more than two drinks
- Quit smoking if you do
When menopause puts your bone health at added risk, you may want to ask your provider about treatment options that may include medication. If you still have your uterus, treating menopausal symptoms with hormone replacement therapy (HRT) that combines estrogen and progestin may be the most effective choice. Although every medication has risks, HRT is safe when used properly. That means the lowest possible dose for the shortest possible time.
Talk with a Provider
Concerned about your risk of developing osteoporosis? A women’s health provider at St. Elizabeth Physicians in Northern Kentucky and Southeastern Indiana can help. Make an appointment with one of our specialists today.