Osteoporosis And Menopause

December 23, 2009

Estrogen Loss = Bone Loss

As we get older, our bodies undergo many changes. Women, as we age, experience incredible changes in our bodies. Unlike men, our ability to reproduce ceases with menopause and our physiology undergoes radical shifts. With the cessation of the production of estrogen, the hormone that is responsible for the lining of the uterus (and a good many other things), and the reduction of the production of testosterone (the hormone that helps men to maintain bone density), our bones become more susceptible to thinning and disease.

What Is Osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis causes the bones to degenerate and decrease in mass density. It affects women more frequently than men, with female bone density decreasing at an alarming rate during perimenopause through post-menopause. Stress is also a huge contributor to bone loss. The National Institute of Mental Health reported that the stress hormones found in depressed women caused bone loss that gave them bones of women nearly twice their age!

When bones lose mineral density, they become susceptible to fractures and breaks. It is particularly noticeable in women who are post-menopause and we see it in the high numbers of bone and hip fractures that occur in aging women. There are no overt symptoms to let you know you are suffering with osteoporosis. It is called the "silent epidemic" because it is only when a bone density test is done that a doctor can reveal the information of the disease to the patient.

Dem Bones, Dem Bones....

Our bones, comprised of minerals such as calcium and phosphorous, and bone cells, are developed throughout our youth. They constantly regenerated themselves until we reached the age of about 30 when an imbalance in bone cells happens. As part of the natural aging process, we lose about 1% of our bone mass during our thirtieth year. However, when a woman is in menopause, her bone loss increases up to 7% every year. The big decrease in bone mass means a greater propensity to breaks and fractures for women who are menopausal.

Osteoporosis And Menopause

During menopause, estrogen levels decrease and this further upsets the cellular balance of bone cells, allowing for the cells that cause damage to increase while those that rebuild cells decrease. When a woman enters menopause, her physician may recommend a bone density scan to determine the amount of minerals in the bones. The measurement used for bone density scanning is called a T score. Normal T scores range from zero to 1. If a woman has a score of 1 to 2.5, then she will be diagnosed with a mild form of osteoporosis called osteopenia. A score of more than 2.5 is osteoporosis.

The good news is that osteoporosis is treatable, especially if applied early in the diagnosis. Mineral supplements, such as calcium, and certain hormone enhancement like calcitonin (found naturally in the thyroid), help reduce the incidence of fractures. Estrogen replacement is perhaps the most effective way to treat osteoporosis in menopausal women. Used as a treatment for menopause, estrogen replacement helps bone mass to increase by at least 5% over a two year period. However, once the treatment is discontinued, bone mass decreases again.

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