Bone health is something women need to take more seriously as they go through menopause. That's because women may lose up to 20 percent of their bone density within 5-7 years of their last menstrual period. A woman’s declining estrogen levels caused by this transition is the culprit behind more brittle bones.
In fact, the National Osteoporosis Foundation reports that approximately one in two women over the age of 50 will break a bone because of this condition. Furthermore, women comprise about 80 percent of the estimated 10 million Americans who have osteoporosis.
Gaps in screening
Interestingly, a recently presented study found important gaps in testing women for osteoporosis. The study, which is out of the University of California, Davis, suggests that many women who are at high risk for osteoporosis are not being tested while many women who are in the low-risk category are being screened.
Researchers reviewed medical records from 51,000 women between the ages of 40 and 85 who lived in the area around Sacramento, CA. After looking at whether women were having a dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry test for bone mineral density, researchers found that screening rates increased sharply around the age of 50.
That increased rate was surprising since guidelines suggest that risk factors should be the driving factor for earlier screenings. In fact, the researchers found that 46 percent of women between the ages of 50-59 as well as 59 percent of women between the ages 60-64 who had a low risk of developing this condition were screened. In comparison, the researchers found that more than 42 percent of the participants who were between the ages of 65 and 74 and 57 percent of participants older than 75 -- all of whom had a higher risk of osteoporosis -- did not get screenings.
Based on a 2014 study, initial screenings of menopausal women in their 50s and early 60s may be prudent in identifying emerging bone health issues. However, the challenge for health care providers becomes making sure that women continue to be screened. Therefore, it’s really important for women to work with their health care providers to set up reminders so they get these important screenings regularly as they age.
Ways to maintain bone health after menopause
Women’s risk for developing osteoporosis varies due to a number of factors, including race, age, use of some types of hormone therapy, smoking and drinking alcohol. Lifestyle choices and medications can help women maintain bone density. Dr. Holly Thacker of the Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Specialized Women’s Health provides a good overview in this video: