Losing bone density is a normal part of ageing however women lose bone density more rapidly in the first few years after the menopause.
What is bone density?
Essentially it is the number of minerals, such as calcium and phosphorus, that are present in the bones. These minerals harden and densify the bones. In addition, they continuously produce new bone tissue so that the bones adapt to the changing demands of the environment, such as growth in width and thickness (Bolster, 2021).
During menopause, and even in early menopause, there is a large loss of bone mass. Consequently, at this stage, there is an increased risk of osteoporosis and fractures.
Now, it should be noted that bone mineral density loss is common in all people after the age of 35. But in women, it occurs more rapidly after the age of 50. For this reason, women are four times more likely to develop osteoporosis (Cleveland Clinic, n.d.).
Why does bone density loss occur during the menopause?
After menopause, the ovaries stop producing oestrogen and progesterone in large quantities, so the levels of these hormones decrease substantially. Thus, some of the essential minerals for tissue production are no longer obtained.
Some main causes of bone loss in menopause are:
- Low amounts of oestrogen and progesterone.
- Eating a diet low in calcium and vitamin D (Bolster, 2021; OASH, 2018).
How to treat bone density loss in menopause?
Increase calcium and vitamin D intake in your diet
Eating food with calcium and vitamin D, especially in menopause, can help build and maintain strong bones. The best meals rich in calcium and vitamin D are:
- Dairy products such as milk and cheese.
- Seafood such as salmon and sardines.
- Green leafy vegetables such as broccoli and spinach (Cleveland Clinic, n.d.).
Staying active and increasing your level of exercise can help strengthen bones and muscles. Doing so will help slow the rate of bone density loss.
Weight-bearing exercises, performed three to four times per week, are best for decreasing the risk of osteoporosis and other difficulties related to bone loss (Cleveland Clinic, n.d.).
Limit alcohol and tobacco use
Regular and excessive alcohol and tobacco use can increase the risk of osteoporosis and fractures. Smoking weakens bones, while alcohol, in addition to damaging bones, affects balance and can cause falls leading to bone fractures (Mayo Clinic, 2021; OASH, 2019).
Spend more time outdoors
Spending at least 20 minutes outdoors each day can help maintain bone mass. Being in the sun can promote your body to generate enough vitamin D, which is needed to be able to absorb calcium (Cleveland Clinic, n.d.).
Talk to your doctor about taking medication
Another alternative to decrease bone mineral density loss in menopause is to take supplements. The main function of these medications is to prevent you from suffering complications related to bone loss.
However, before taking them, you should ask your doctor whether this treatment or another one, such as hormone replacement therapy, is right for you, as there is a chance of side effects (Eisenberg Center at Oregon Health & Science University, 2009).
Bone density loss is normal. It is a natural process of aging and menopause. However, this does not mean you will develop osteoporosis. Living a healthy lifestyle, as well as following the above recommendations, will benefit your health at this stage of life.
Bolster, M. (2021). Osteoporosis. MSD Manual. https://www.msdmanuals.com/home/bone,-joint,-and-muscle-disorders/osteoporosis/osteoporosis
Cleveland Clinic. (n.d.). La menopausia y la osteoporosis. Cleveland Clinic. http://www.clevelandclinic.org/health/shic/html/s10091.asp
Eisenberg Center at Oregon Health & Science University. (2009). Tratamientos para la osteoporosis que ayudan a prevenir fracturas de huesos. Guía para mujeres después de la menopausia. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK47466/?report=reader
Mayo Clinic. (2021). Osteoporosis. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/osteoporosis/symptoms-causes/syc-20351968
OASH. (2019). Osteoporosis. Office on Women’s Health. https://www.womenshealth.gov/a-z-topics/osteoporosis
OASH. (2018). Menopause and your health. Office on Women’s Health. https://www.womenshealth.gov/menopause/menopause-and-your-health
Patel, D. (2021). Menopause. American Academy of Family Physicians. https://familydoctor.org/condition/menopause/