Effects of Menopause

Menopause can cause many changes in a woman’s body. It can also affect some chronic medical conditions, including:

Osteoporosis effect of menopause

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.

Screening for osteoporosis

Osteoporosis can be picked up before it leads to fractures. Current recommendations include that ALL women have a screening bone density test by age 65. For some, however (see Risk factors for osteoporosis below), earlier screening may make sense and can pick up disease before it becomes a major health problem. A woman’s clinical care provider can help direct her to the most appropriate testing based on her risks.

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:

  • 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.

Taking calcium and vitamin D supplements is often suggested. There is mixed medical evidence that adding calcium and vitamin D supplements to the diet will improve bone density or help avoid osteoporosis. If a woman chooses to take these supplements, she should be aware that too much calcium can be harmful to her health.

It is important to aim for a total calcium intake that is not more than 1,000 mg a day (if taking hormone therapy) or 1 500 mg a day (if not taking hormone therapy). This should be achieved with a combination of dietary intake and supplements, if they are needed. Vitamin D3 in doses of 1,000-2,000 IU per day have not been shown to cause harm and may help maintain normal vitamin D levels.

Cardiovascular disease effect of menopause

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.

The reasons that heart disease risk rises for women after menopause are not well understood. Estrogen appears to play a role, but randomized clinical trials of estrogen treatment to prevent heart disease have not demonstrated reduced heart disease outcomes in women who took estrogen for up to seven years.

Postmenopausal women should be screened for the risk factors for heart disease, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and prediabetes or diabetes. These problems should be treated if they arise. Maintaining a normal body weight and engaging in regular exercise are the best treatments a woman can do to protect her heart health throughout her lifetime.

 Continued reading

Learn more about menopause and perimenopause and how they affect may affect lifestyle as well as possible treatments. More about menopause: Symptoms | Treatment