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Home > FAQ

Osteoporosis & Menopause

Menopause, a transition that all women experience, occurs when monthly menstrual periods become irregular and then stop altogether. Some women feel many physical and emotional changes, others feel no symptoms at all.

Whether menopause is natural or results from surgical removal of reproductive organs, it can seriously affect bone health. Estrogen plays an important role in protecting bones, and as estrogen production declines during menopause, bone loss occurs. In some women the impact on bone health can be severe. The amount of bone density a woman has at menopause and the rate of bone loss afterwards are important factors in predicting whether she will develop osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a condition in which bones become porous and fragile. It affects about half of all older American women and is often painful and debilitating. The chances of developing osteoporosis can be decreased, especially if steps are taken early in life and at the onset of menopause. Bone loss is most rapid during the first few years after menopause, but continues throughout the postmenopausal years.

Physicians may recommend bone mineral density tests for postmenopausal women who have a major risk for osteoporosis such as early menopause or a family history of osteoporosis, or who are not on Hormone Replacement Therapy.

Hormone Replacement Therapy, or HRT, is medication that helps replace or supplement the body's decreased estrogen production. HRT can slow down bone loss and osteoporosis, but some women have side effects or medical conditions that may be aggravated by HRT. There is some evidence that long-term use of estrogen may increase risk of breast and endometrial cancer. If a woman cannot take HRT, other options are available, including raloxifene (EVISTA), calcitonin nasal spray (Miacalcin), risendronate (Actonel) and alendronate (Fosamax). Women should discuss the risks and benefits of these medications with their physicians.

At any age, girls and women should get plenty of calcium through food or supplements and stay physically active to build healthy bones and decrease their risk for osteoporosis. The National Osteoporosis Foundation recommends women who are past menopause or who have had a total hysterectomy (including ovaries), should get 1200-1500 milligrams of calcium per day. The best way to get calcium is from the food you eat, but postmenopausal women who do not get enough calcium should consult their health care provider to see whether they should take calcium supplements.

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The University of Arizona College of Public Health / The University of Arizona Cooperative Extension / The University of Arizona College of Agriculture & Life Sciences / Maricopa Co. Cooperative Extension Family & Consumer Sciences / The University of Arizona Dept of Nutritional Sciences /Arizona Osteoporosis Coalition

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