Why Bone loss Increases After Menopause

At the same time a woman is menopausal there are many other areas of health she needs to keep an eye on, including her bones. Oestrogen, a hormone in women that protects bone strength, decreases sharply around the time of menopause, which can cause bone loss.1 If a woman’s peak bone mass before menopause is less than ideal, any bone loss that occurs during menopause can result in osteoporosis, a condition in which bones become thin, weak and fracture more easily. It is estimated that the average woman will lose up to 10% of her bone mass in the first five years following menopause and research suggests that about half of women over the age of 60 will experience at least one fracture due to osteoporosis.2

Reducing the rate of bone loss during menopause

Around the time of menopause (between the ages of 40-60) a woman can slow the rate of bone loss and reduce her risk of developing osteoporosis by making some simple lifestyle changes:

  • Have regular bone health checks – Starting from around the age of 45, it is important for women to have bone health checks as part of their health screening. This might involve a thorough medical history, checking for risk factors for osteoporosis and bone density testing.
  • Ensure adequate calcium and vitamin D – Women over the age of 50 should aim for around 1300mg of calcium per day to support their bone health, which equals three to four serves of dairy products. If this is unachievable through the diet alone then a calcium supplement may be necessary. Vitamin D is important for the absorption and utilization of calcium in the body and vitamin D needs can be met through sensible sun exposure and/or a vitamin D supplement.
  • Consider a vitamin K2 supplement – Vitamin K2 is a bioavailable form of vitamin K that may help decrease bone loss in post-menopausal women. Ostelin Cal-DK2 contains vitamin K2 in addition to calcium and vitamin D and may be suitable for postmenopausal women who wish to support their bone health.
  • Partake in regular exercise – The two types of physical activity that are most beneficial for bones are weight bearing and resistance (strength) training exercises. These can help reduce bone loss and also reduce the incidence of falls and fractures by improving muscle strength, balance and fitness.2 Women should aim to include some form of resistance training (using hand weights, weight machines or their body weight in push-ups, squats or chin-ups) once or twice weekly and include weight-bearing activities (walking, dancing, aerobics, netball, tennis) as part of their regular exercise routine.
  • Avoid smoking and limit alcohol intake – Smoking and an excessive intake of alcohol is associated with an increased risk of developing osteoporosis and should be avoided.3
  • Maintain a healthy weight – Recent studies suggest that hormones associated with excessive weight may impact on bone health.3 It is therefore important for postmenopausal women to achieve or maintain a healthy weight.
References
  1. National Osteoporosis Foundation, What women need to know, URL access: www.nof.org/articles/235
  2. Better Health, Menopause and osteoporosis, April 2014, URL access: www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/menopause_and_osteoporosis
  3. Osteoporosis Australia, Risk factors, June 2014, URL access: www.osteoporosis.org.au/risk-factors