Recent health news reports told menopausal women our hot flashes and night sweats could be with us for longer than originally estimated. Some unfortunate women may endure these types of vasomotor symptoms for up to 14 years. That’s rough.
Yet, there may be an unseen benefit. A Women’s Health Initiative study summarized by Endocrinology Advisor found women who experience moderate to severe hot flashes and night sweats have higher hip fracture rates and lower bone mineral density (BMD). The timing of the elevated fracture rates occurs when women are losing bone mass in the hip and spine. Although women start losing bone mass during their 30s, the loss accelerates during perimenopause when estrogen levels begin to decline. According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, the decline in bone density accelerates again in the first five to seven years after menopause, when women lose up to 20 percent of their bone density. And, yes, like hot flashes, bone loss is linked to estrogen levels. The more hormone we lose, the worse some of us feel, and now, the less bone density we have to keep us moving and happier.
While there are many ways to protect and improve your bone density, there is only one way to know if you have or are developing osteoporosis: a Bone Mass Density (BMD) test. This 15-minute test detects osteoporosis and measures your level of bone density, or osteopenia. Low bone density puts you at higher risk for developing osteoporosis. The bottom line: discuss whether you may need a BMD test with your health care provider. But, don’t wait until you are in menopause. A woman’s bone mass level prior to menopause is a strong predictor of how she will fare during and after menopause.
“Bank” Bone Mass Before Menopause
That is the advice from another groundbreaking study on the relationship between bone mass and menopause that found a strong correlation between weight gain/loss and fracture rates. The study followed 120,000 postmenopausal women aged 50 to 79 years for 11 years. Results show a 65 percent increased risk of hip fracture with weight loss of five or more percent, and a 30 percent increase in hip, pelvis, and spine fractures. Conversely, weight gain is associated with higher rates of upper and lower extremity fractures as these areas don’t have soft tissue to take in the increased force of added weight because of poor neuromuscular fitness. However, overweight women have fewer fractures as their weight stresses their bones, forcing them to respond and build strength, explains Dr. Richard Coutts, orthopedic medical director for Sharp HealthCare.
Dr. Payam Moazzaz, an orthopedic surgeon at San Diego’s Tri-City Medical Center, tells women to view bone density as `“money in the bank.”’ And, no matter when you start, says Moazzaz, you can build your bone density bank account with regular exercise, including weight bearing activities, and a diet high in calcium and Vitamin D.
So, here’s the excuse we’ve been waiting for this spring: go outside and “play,” drink your milk, eat some ice cream, and soak up the sun.
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