Menopause marks the end of the reproductive phase in women. The term menopause refers to the stage in a woman’s life when she has her last menstrual cycle. A woman is considered to have completed menopause when she has experienced one year with no menstrual bleeding.
The average age at which a woman experiences her final menstrual period is 51; however, for some women menopause can occur much earlier or much later. Researchers in Sweden have found that women who experience menopause before age 47 are at an increased risk of osteoporosis.
The study involved 390 women who were recruited in 1977 (at age 48) and followed for 34 years in order to evaluate bone health. The women were classified into one of two groups: early menopause (before age 47) or late menopause (after age 47). Researchers measured bone mineral density in the women at age 48 and again at age 77. They recorded mortality rates and fracture incidence up to age 82.
The results indicated that women who experience early menopause have an 80 percent increased risk of osteoporosis, a 68 percent increased risk of bone fracture, and a 60 percent increased risk of death compared to women who undergo menopause at a later age. The reasons for this disparity are unclear, but they indicate the importance of measuring bone density in the decade following menopause.
The takeaway message—while you may not be able to control the age at which you experience menopause, you can control your lifestyle choices. In order to maintain optimal bone density, it’s important to eat a healthy bone-building diet and perform weight-bearing exercise. As with anything, prevention is the best course of action. Maintain open communication with your doctor as you navigate menopause.
 Svejme O, Ahlborg HG, Nilsson J-A, Karlsson MK. Early menopause and risk of osteoporosis, fracture and mortality: a 34-year prospective observational study in 390 women. BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Published early online: April 25, 2012: DOI: 10.1111/j.1471-0528.2012.03324.x