As women, we can expect our bodies to go through many hormonal changes over our lifetime. But menopause can be one of the most consuming life changes, with many side effects, including some that are longer lasting than others.
Generally speaking, menopause is when a woman, usually aged 50 and over, stops menstruating for 12 consecutive months. However, the experts at Menopause and U suggest that women might also experience perimenopause (a buildup of symptoms that occurs over months or years, leading to menopause).
“Symptoms may occur earlier, but most women experience the physical and emotional changes of perimenopause in their late 40s or early 50s,” Menopause and U explains.
The onset of perimenopause and menopause can occur at different ages for women, all of whom will experience a varying range of these symptoms:
- Irregular periods
- Hot flashes
- Night sweats
- Libido changes
- Bladder control loss
- Vaginal dryness
- Mood swings
Find out more about menopause and your sex life >>
However, another side effect that might not be as well known is a possible decrease in bone health, which can lead to osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis Canada, the nation’s osteoporosis advocacy organization, says, “Women are especially at risk because of the important role that estrogen plays in keeping their bones healthy.
“At menopause, there is a gradual decline in ovarian function and a consequent loss of estrogen production. As estrogen levels decline, loss of bone tissue begins. Rapid bone loss at a rate of two to five percent a year can occur for the first five to 10 years after menopause.”
What is osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis Canada defines the health condition as “a disease characterized by low bone mass and deterioration of bone tissue. This leads to increased bone fragility and risk of fracture (broken bones), particularly of the hip, spine, wrist and shoulder. Osteoporosis is often known as ‘the silent thief’ because bone loss occurs without symptoms.”
The organization suggests that “at least one in three women and one in five men will suffer from an osteoporotic fracture during their lifetime.”
How to help your bone health
While you can’t necessarily stop the effects of menopause on your bone health, you can make sure you take extra measures to boost it.
The makers of Caltrate® supplements suggest that women adopt “a healthy diet, regular exercise and supplements for calcium and vitamin D” to help reduce their risk of osteoporosis.
The best supplements to take as you age >>
They recommend women aged 51–70 take 1,200 milligrams of calcium per day, combined with 600 IUs of vitamin D a day, though every woman should consult her own doctor to determine the best options for her health status.
It’s also important that women who are experiencing perimenopause consider their bone health.