Osteoporosis: What Women Need to Know

October 14, 2011

Maintaining bone strength is an important component of overall health. Bones provide the structural support your body needs in order to function properly. And bone health becomes increasingly important as you grow older and hormonal changes begin to affect your skeleton.

Maintaining bone strength is an important component of overall health.

Bones provide the structural support your body needs in order to function properly. And bone health becomes increasingly important as you grow older and hormonal changes begin to affect your skeleton.

Bones are made up of living tissue (mainly collagen) that is constantly remodeling. This process, also called bone turnover, consists of two major phases: bone resorption - when bone collagen is broken down, and bone formation - when bone is rebuilt. In healthy adult bone, these phases are balanced.

Menopause and Bone Loss

During menopause, estrogen levels go down. At the same time, bone breakdown (resorption) may increase. When levels of bone resorption are higher than levels of bone formation, overall bone loss may occur. Because of this, menopause is the number one risk factor for developing osteoporosis. Indeed, most bone loss occurs within five to seven years after menopause.

Menopause and Osteoporosis

Menopause is the number one risk factor for osteoporosis. Most bone loss occurs within five to seven years after menopause. Cigarette smoking accelerates the onset of menopause and increases the risk for osteoporosis. HRT relieves menopausal symptoms and helps prevent osteoporosis. Seventy-five percent of women ages 45 to 75 have never talked with a doctor about osteoporosis, according to a Gallup poll.

Osteoporosis risk factors:

  • Being female
  • Being postmenopausal
  • A small, thin frame
  • Advanced age
  • Family history of osteoporosis
  • Early menopause
  • Diet low in calcium
  • Use of certain medications (steroids, anticonvulsants, excessive thyroid hormones, certain cancer treatments)
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Cigarette smoking
  • Excessive alcohol intake

Clinical Definition of Osteoporosis

Treatment Options