Early Menopause May Mean Greater Osteoporosis Risk

Elbow strife II
Creative Commons License photo credit: Anthony DeLorenzo

One of the most common health concerns that women face after menopause is the risk of osteoporosis. According to a new study on menopause and osteoporosis, women who start menopause earlier than others are much more likely to develop osteoporosis-related fractures than other women.

Understanding menopause

During menopause, your periods stop and you’re no longer able to conceive a child. When you’ve gone for a year without a period, you’re considered postmenopausal. For most women, menopause starts around the age of 51. Some women, however, can go through early menopause as young as 40.

In some cases, when a woman needs to have her ovaries removed due to a medical concern, she can enter menopause even earlier.

Increased risk for fractures

The study shows that women who experience menopause before the age of 48 are actually twice as likely to develop osteoporosis, the disease that leads to weak bones and often to fractures.

Here are some of the other specific from the study:

  • The study measured the bones in mineral density for 390 European women, originally studied in 1977. At that time, the women were all age 48.
  • Some of the women had already reached menopause, and others had not. They were divided into two groups, and bone density was measured.
  • At the end of the study in 2006, there were 198 women still living, aged 77.
  • By the age of 77, 56% of the women who started menopause early had osteoporosis.
  • Of the women who developed menopause normally or late, only 30 percent had osteoporosis.
  • Women who entered menopause early had a higher mortality rate – 52.4% compared to 35.2%.
  • The same held true for fracture incidents, with 44.3% for the early group and 30.7% for the latter group.

The study doesn’t look exactly how early menopause is connected, and the researchers readily admit that other factors like nutrition, alcohol use, and smoking could be involved, as well.

So, what do you think? Does this study suggest that women who go into menopause earlier than others may be at risk? What kinds of things – educationally or in terms of lifestyle changes – should be considered to make people more aware of the issue?

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