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OSTEOPOROSIS

Osteoporosis is the disease of brittle bones. As we age, bone mass loses density. Menopause can accelerate this process due to the loss in oestrogen levels. Oestrogen plays two important roles in bone metabolism: it facilitates the absorption of calcium from the blood into the bone and inhibits the loss of calcium from bone. Lack of oestrogen will slow down calcium absorption into bone and, instead, speed up calcium loss.

It is estimated that the average woman loses up to 10 per cent of her bone mass in the first five years of menopause. Research suggests that about half of all women over the age of 60 will have at least one fracture due to osteoporosis.

Dubbed the "silent disease", osteoporosis reveals no physical symptoms. That is because bone loss causes neither visible signs nor pain. Osteoporosis can go undetected for years, until weakened bones cause painful fractures in the back or hips.

But does that mean every postmenopausal woman should sit back and wait for osteoporosis to set in? Of course not. Though they can't stop oestrogen from decreasing, they can prevent osteoporosis by following these simple regimes:

1. Exercise: Bones tend to lose mass from inactivity. Exercise, especially weight-bearing ones like jogging, aerobics and tennis, have been proven to stimulate bone growth and improve strength.

2. More calcium: Calcium is needed for building bones. Bone mass needs at least 1,200mg of calcium daily to maintain density.

3. No smoking: Women who smoke generally experience menopause earlier than non-smokers, so they face a longer period of oestrogen deficiency and bone loss. Smoking also hampers efficient processing of calcium.

4. No alcohol: Consuming more than two alcoholic drinks a day can decrease calcium absorption and interfere with vitamin D synthesis.

5. Herbal remedy: Remifemin, the black cohosh-derived herbal remedy has been shown to have beneficial effect on bone to prevent osteoporosis.

6. Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT): Research shows that HRT after menopause improves calcium absorption and prevents osteoporosis in 75-80 per cent of women.

 
 

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