When a woman is in perimenopause — the years leading up to menopause — her body starts making less estrogen. Decreasing estrogen levels can contribute to a condition called osteoporosis.
What Is Osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is the loss of bone mass — bones become thinner and less dense. Bone loss naturally begins around age 30.
Decreasing levels of estrogen after menopause can make bone loss worse. Women with thin bones are at increased risk of broken bones. In older women, hip fracture due to osteoporosis can be fatal.
Who Is At Risk for Osteoporosis?
Any woman can get osteoporosis. Women with the highest risk of osteoporosis
- don't get enough exercise
- have a diet high in alcohol, caffeine, or protein
- have a diet low in calcium and vitamin D
- have early menopause
- have a family history of osteoporosis
- have certain hormonal conditions, such as Cushing's disease, diabetes, or hyperthyroidism
- take thyroid or cortisone medications
- weigh less than average for their height
Osteoporosis shows no symptoms in the early stages. Ask your health care provider to do a bone density test during perimenopause if you have any of the risk factors listed above. Bone density testing is recommended following menopause.
Can I Prevent Osteoporosis?
It isn't likely that you can prevent bone loss completely, but you can lessen its effects. It is a great idea for women of all ages to build bone mass. Walking, running, and weightlifting are good exercises to build bone mass. You should also get enough calcium and vitamin D. Women younger than 50 should take at least 1,000 mg of calcium and 400–800 IU of vitamin D every day. Women 50 and older should take 1,200 mg of calcium and 1,000 IU of vitamin D every day.
Women over 65 should boost their intake of calcium to 1,500 mg. No single dose of calcium should be more than 500 mg.
Where Can I Find More Information About Osteoporosis?
For bone-density information, testing, and physician referrals, check out The National Osteoporosis Foundation.