STATEWIDE OSTEOPOROSIS RESOURCE CENTER
 

Risk Factors for Postmenopausal Women

 

What does menopause mean?

Menopause is derived from the Greek words mensis (month) and pauses (cessation). It means the permanent end of menstruation (menstrual periods). Menopause is considered permanent when a woman has not had a menstrual period for 12 months in a row, without another medical cause.

When does menopause usually occur?

Menopause can happen naturally, commonly around the age of 50. However, some women stop menstruating at an earlier age (at age 45 or younger) or at a later age than usual. Menopause can also occur following surgical removal of both ovaries (known as bilateral ovariectomy or bilateral oophorectomy). Women who have surgery to remove both ovaries experience an abrupt menopause that may take place at an earlier age than would have happened naturally. Early menopause is also common in women who have had radiation to the pelvic area or some types of chemotherapy to treat cancer.

Why does menopause occur?

Menopause is triggered by a decrease in the estrogen and progesterone levels produced by the ovaries. Estrogen is a female hormone that has many functions. During the adult years, one function of estrogen is to protect bones.

Why is menopause a risk for osteoporosis?

The drop in estrogen level that happens at menopause increases a woman's risk of bone loss and osteoporosis. In the first five to seven years after menopause, a woman can lose up to 20% of her bone density. When the natural onset of menopause comes earlier than expected or when it is caused by the surgical removal of both ovaries, a woman's estrogen protection is reduced for a longer period of time. This may increase the risk of bone loss at an earlier age.

How can I tell if I am at risk for osteoporosis?

Knowing your risk for osteoporosis is the first step in taking an active role to promote strong bones for life. To find out about your personal risk factors, click on the NYSOPEP Osteoporosis Risk Assessment for Postmenopausal Women.

If I have risk factors, does it mean that I am going to get osteoporosis?

Although risk factors may increase your likelihood of getting osteoporosis, having risk factors does not mean that you have or will get the disease. It is important to be aware that there are conditions and medications that may contribute to bone loss leading to osteoporosis as well as others that have not yet been identified. On the other hand, postmenopausal women who do not have any of the identified risk factors for osteoporosis may not be protected from developing the disease. It is important to speak to your healthcare provider about your bone health and find out when the right time is for you to have a bone mineral density (BMD) test. It is never too early or too late to take action to promote stronger bones.