What is Menopause?

Menopause, also known as the climacteric, is the time in most women’s lives when menstrual periods stop permanently. Menopause typically occurs between 45 and 55 years of age. Medical professionals often define menopause as having occurred when a woman has not had any menstrual periods for a year. It may also be defined by a decrease in hormone production by the ovaries.

Why does bone loss speed up after the menopause?

The rapid dip in bone density after the menopause is caused by falling levels of the female hormone oestrogen. Oestrogen helps to protect bone strength. Women can lose up to 20% of their bone density in the five to seven years after the menopause. This makes post-menopausal women more at risk of osteoporosis (weak bones) and fractures.

Why postmenopausal women are at greatest risk of osteoporotic fractures?

  • Between the ages of approximately 25 and menopause, bone resorption (breakdown) and formation are balanced to maintain total bone mass. After menopause, bone resorption exceeds bone formation, leading to a rapid decline in bone mass.
  • Menopause-induced bone loss is most severe after surgical removal of the ovaries, or from the use of aromatase inhibitor therapy in cancer patients.

What is the burden of osteoporosis and fractures on postmenopausal women ?

  • Worldwide, one in three women aged over 50 years will suffer a fracture caused by osteoporosis.
  • In women aged over 45 years, osteoporosis accounts for more days spent in hospital than many other diseases, including diabetes, myocardial infarction (heart attack) and breast cancer.

How women can reduce osteoporosis and fracture risk?

  • An individual’s risk of developing osteoporosis and fragility fractures is determined by a number of factors, some of which can be changed (modifiable) while others cannot (non-modifiable).