What does menopause mean for my bones?

Menopause, or the cessation of menstruation, can increase a woman’s risk of developing osteoporosis, a condition where bones become fragile and easier to fracture. The female hormone oestrogen plays an important role in maintaining bone strength throughout a woman’s life. During menopause, oestrogen levels decrease rapidly resulting in increased bone loss. It’s estimated that the average woman loses up to 10% of her bone mass in the first five years after menopause.1 If a woman’s peak bone mass before menopause is less than ideal, any bone loss that occurs during menopause may result in osteoporosis.1

Menopause – a time to take action

Osteoporosis is not inevitable; women can help maintain their bone strength and decrease the risk of developing the condition by following a few dietary and lifestyle recommendations including:

  • Calcium – Following menopause, a woman’s calcium requirements increase to 1300mg a day. If you’re unable to achieve this amount through diet alone, a calcium supplement may be recommended.
  • Vitamin D – It’s important to maintain adequate vitamin D levels because it helps calcium’s absorption utilisation in the body. This can be achieved through sensible sun exposure and/or vitamin D supplementation.
  • Exercise – Regular physical activity plays an important role in maintaining bone strength and helping to slow the rate of bone loss following menopause.2 Women should incorporate weight bearing exercise such as brisk walking, jogging, tennis, basketball and netball, and participate in progressive resistance training such as lifting weights to support their bone health.
  • Alcohol – Excessive alcohol intake can increase the risk of developing osteoporosis. It’s recommended that women have a maximum of two standard drinks per day with at least two alcohol free days each week.1
  • Caffeine – It’s important for women to moderate their caffeine consumption; no more than two to three cups in total of cola, coffee and tea should be consumed daily.
  • Smoking – Women should avoid smoking as it’s associated with a higher risk of developing osteoporosis.1