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Menopause

Fact Sheet

Menopause and Bone Loss

  • Editors
  • Steven T. Harris, MD
    Benjamin Leder, MD

How are bone loss and menopause related?

Throughout life your body keeps a balance between the loss of bone and the creation of new bone.  You reach your highest bone mass (size and density) at about age 30.  Then, sometime between age 30 and 35, your body begins to lose bone faster than it can be replaced.

Menopause—the time when menstrual periods end, which usually happens in your late forties or early fifties—dramatically speeds up bone loss.  After menopause your ovaries stop producing the hormone estrogen, which helps to keep your bones strong.  Even during perimenopause(the period of 2 to 8 years before menopause), when your periods start to become irregular, your estrogen levels may start to drop off and you could start to lose bone more rapidly.

Osteoporosis

Over time, this bone loss can lead to osteopenia(low bone mass) or even osteoporosis, a condition in which bones become weak and are more likely to break (fracture).

Did you know?

Menopause can increase bone loss, but you can do things to help keep your bones strong.  The sooner you take steps to prevent bone loss, the lower your risk of osteoporosis later in life.

Who is at risk for bone loss?

Your risk of bone loss is higher if you have a family history of osteoporosis, or if you are

If you are skipping menstrual periods, have had both ovaries surgically removed, or are postmenopausal (the time after menopause; especially past the age of 65), you are also at risk for bone loss.

How do you know if you have bone loss?

To measure the strength of your bones, your doctor may do a bone density test (DEXA scan).  This test gives exact measurements of the density (or thickness) of the bone in the spine, hip, and sometimes forearm.

How do you minimize and treat bone loss?

Diet and lifestyle can help prevent and treat bone loss.  Successful treatment of osteoporosis, however, usually involves a combination of dietary supplements, lifestyle changes, and medication.

Who Should be Tested for Bone Loss?
  • All women age 65 or older (even if you don’t have risk factors)
  • All postmenopausal women under age 65 who have one or more risk factors (other than being white or Asian)
  • All postmenopausal women who have had a fracture

All of these medicines are effective, but they may have side effects.  Your doctor will work with you to find the best treatment option for you.

Questions to ask your doctor

Resources

Find-an-Endocrinologist: www.hormone.org or call 1-800-HORMONE (1-800-467-6663)

The National Institutes of Health Osteoporosis and Related Bone Diseases National Resource Center: www.niams.nih.gov/Health_Info/Bone/Osteoporosis/overview.asp

MedlinePlus (National Institutes of Health): www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/osteoporosis.html

National Osteoporosis Foundation: www.nof.org

Mayo Clinic: www.mayoclinic.com/health/osteoporosis/DS00128