Effects of Menopause
Menopause can cause many changes in a woman’s body. It can also affect some chronic medical conditions, including:
Bone mineral density normally begins to decline when a woman is in her 40s. When a woman hits menopause, estrogen levels decrease. Since estrogen helps to produce and keep strong healthy bones, this sudden hormonal level drop can affect bone strength.
The combination of aging and hormonal changes can lead to osteoporosis. This deterioration in the quantity and quality of bone can lead to an increased risk of bone fracture.
Osteoporosis literally means “porous bones.” It is sometimes called a “silent disease” because bone loss often occurs without symptoms.
Risk factors for osteoporosis
Women are four times more likely to have osteoporosis than men. Bone density begins to decline around age 30, and women over age 50 (who are often menopausal) are at the greatest risk of developing osteoporosis.
Other risk factors include:
- Family history of osteoporosis
- Ethnicity (studies have found that Asian and Caucasian women are more likely to develop osteoporosis)
- Petite bone structure
Some medications, such as steroids, increase the risk of osteoporosis.
Treatment of osteoporosis
While there is no complete cure for osteoporosis, the goal of treatment is the prevention of bone fractures by slowing bone loss and increasing bone density and strength. Treatment methods include:
- Taking calcium and vitamin D supplements
- Maintaining a healthy lifestyle by getting exercise, curtailing alcohol intake and quitting smoking
- Medication may be prescribed to stop bone loss and build bone strength. Medications include risedronate (Actonel),alendronate (Fosamax), zoledronic acid (Reclast), risedronate (Actonel),ibandronate (Boniva), raloxifene (Evista), and calcitonin (Calcimar).
Before going through menopause, women have a decreased risk of stroke and heart disease as compared to men. However, during menopause, a women’s risk of cardiovascular disease increases.
In fact, coronary heart disease rates in postmenopausal women are up to three times higher than in women of the same age who have not gone through menopause.
This may be due to declining levels of estrogen. Postmenopausal women should talk with their doctor about taking hormone replacement therapy.