Women typically experience the start of menopause in their 40s to their 50s. While most women may have some knowledge about the link between women’s health, declining oestrogen levels and mood disturbances, the connection between menopause and osteoporosis may be less well understood.
Unlike mood disturbances such as anxiety during menopause, which may be easily observed by friends and relatives, women in the early stages of osteoporosis often display no visible signs of the disease. As the disease progresses, however, some women may start to experience back pain, along with a loss of height and a stooped posture.
The connection between menopause and osteoporosis
Osteoporosis occurs when loss of bone density happens over time, leading to weak bones and a higher likelihood of sustaining bone fractures. Although osteoporosis can happen at any age, postmenopausal women are at greater risk for osteoporosis, owing to diminishing oestrogen levels.
Our bones, which are living tissue, are in a constant state of renewal much like our skin. Starting in our 30s, however, the rate of renewal starts to slow. Over time, this can lead to loss of bone mass, which has the potential to become osteoporosis.
As Singapore’s population continues to age rapidly, osteoporosis could become more prevalent. In 2019, a medical paper published in Archives Of Osteoporosis estimates the incidence of osteoporotic fractures will rise from 57.9% in 2017 to 60.7% by 2035.
How to avoid osteoporosis after menopause
Since there is no cure for osteoporosis, at Osler Health we support a preventative approach. This can be done by making some lifestyle and dietary changes, to support good bone health.
- Conduct weight-bearing exercises three times a week, such as weights, tai-chi, brisk walking or climbing the stairs.
- Please also consider drinking less alcohol and smoking less, or better yet, quitting both entirely. This is because smoking may lead to decreased oestrogen levels, increasing the likelihood of osteoporosis. Alcohol consumption may also make it more difficult for your body to absorb calcium.
- Maintain a well-balanced diet with a good amount of calcium and vitamin D, which can help to promote bone health.
- Hormone Replacement Therapy can also address the issue of bone health after menopause, as well as address other unpleasant side effects of menopause, such as hot flushes and anxiety.
How much calcium and vitamin D you need depends on your age. Typically, adults under 50 need 1,000 mg of calcium and 400-800 IU of vitamin D daily.
For adults over 50, this increases significantly to a daily intake of 1,200 mg of calcium, along with 800-1000 IU of vitamin D. This can be achieved by switching to a diet that’s high in vitamin D and calcium, or by taking supplements along with your meals. You may want to incorporate foods rich in vitamin D, such as salmon and eggs, into your diet. Meanwhile, you may also want to consider adding food that is high in calcium to your grocery list. This includes food such as baked beans, beancurd, low-fat milk as well as bread and cereals fortified with calcium.
When to see a doctor
Now that you know how to avoid osteoporosis after menopause, it’s time to think about when you should see a doctor. Since early-stage osteoporosis can be painless and symptom-free, a bone mineral density test carried out by a doctor can be helpful in determining how much bone calcium you have. You’ll also be able to know early on if you are losing too much bone mass, so you can make the needed adjustments to your lifestyle. Women in later stages of osteoporosis can also be referred to a specialist clinic by their family medicine doctor, or prescribed supplements that will help manage their bone health.
Thinking of visiting a women’s health clinic to address your menopause and osteoporosis concerns? A family medicine doctor can also help to address your concerns. At Osler Health, we have dedicated doctors who are ready and willing to listen to you, so they can meet your needs. Our centrally located clinics in Singapore are situated in Star Vista and Raffles Hotel Arcade. Easily accessible by public and private transport, they are a convenient way to get help.
If you’d like to schedule an appointment, do contact us by email or give us a call. We look forward to hearing from you. Want to read more about other important health issues? Find out what one of our doctors has to say about menopause treatment options, for those suffering from vasomotor symptoms like hot flushes and night sweats.