Entering menopause can have its pluses and minuses. One of the minuses is an increase in the risk of osteoporosis.
Over the course of our lives, bone tissue is continually breaking down and being replaced. As long as it is replaced as fast as it breaks down, our bones remain thick and strong. The female hormone estrogen helps slow down the rate at which bone matter is broken down. This helps female bodies maintain the balance they need to keep bones strong.
After menopause, the level of estrogen begins to decrease, and female bones begin to break down faster. In many women, this means that bones are broken down faster than they can be replaced. This leads to brittle bones that look somewhat spongy and are much easier to break. Women lose up to 20 percent of their bone density in the five-to-seven years after menopause.
Unfortunately, people with osteoporosis cannot feel their bones getting weaker. Many do not even realize they have osteoporosis until they break a bone. Depending on your age, and the type of break you experience, a broken bone could have very serious consequences. 24 percent of hip fracture patients age 50 and over die in the year following the fracture.
Women aren’t the only people who get osteoporosis, of course, but they tend to get it at a younger age than men do. Osteoporosis also progresses faster in women than it does in men. To make matters worse, women’s bones tend to be thinner than men’s bones, which means that they cannot afford to lose as much bone mass. Gender Disparities in Osteoporosis – PMC (nih.gov)
In order to screen for osteoporosis, women aged 65 and older should have an imaging exam known as a “DEXA” scan to check their bone density. In some situations, a DEXA scan may be recommended at a younger age. If you’re concerned about osteoporosis, contact your primary care provider and see if it’s time for your DEXA scan.