Menopause (cont.)

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What are the complications and effects of menopause on chronic medical conditions?

Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is the deterioration of the quantity and quality of bone that causes an increased risk of fracture. The density of the bone (bone mineral density) normally begins to decrease in women during the fourth decade of life. However, that normal decline in bone density is accelerated during the menopausal transition. As a consequence, both age and the hormonal changes due to the menopause transition act together to cause osteoporosis.

The process leading to osteoporosis can operate silently for decades. Women may not be aware of their osteoporosis until suffering a painful fracture. The symptoms are then related to the location and severity of the fractures.

Treatment of osteoporosis

The goal of osteoporosis treatment is the prevention of bone fractures by slowing bone loss and increasing bone density and strength. Although early detection and timely treatment of osteoporosis can substantially decrease the risk of future fracture, none of the available treatments for osteoporosis are complete cures for the condition. Therefore, the prevention of osteoporosis is as important as treatment.

Osteoporosis treatment and prevention measures are:

  • Lifestyle changes including cessation of cigarette smoking, curtailing alcohol intake, exercising regularly, and consuming a balanced diet with adequate calcium and vitamin D.
  • Calcium and vitamin D supplements may be recommended for women who do not consume sufficient quantities of these nutrients.
  • Medications that stop bone loss and increase bone strength include alendronate (Fosamax), risedronate (Actonel), ibandronate (Boniva), zoledronic acid (Reclast), raloxifene (Evista), and calcitonin (Calcimar). Teriparatide (Forteo) is a medication that increases bone formation.

Cardiovascular disease

Prior to menopause, women have a decreased risk of heart disease and stroke when compared with men. Around the time of menopause, however, a women's risk of cardiovascular disease increases. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in both men and women in the U.S.

Coronary heart disease rates in postmenopausal women are two to three times higher than in women of the same age who have not reached menopause. This increased risk for cardiovascular disease may be related to declining estrogen levels, but in light of other factors (see Treatment section below), postmenopausal women are not advised to take hormone therapy simply as a preventive measure to decrease their risk of heart attack or stroke.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/5/2013

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