Menopause is called "the change" for a reason. As hormone levels begin to change, so do health concerns, such as osteoporosis, said experts at Baylor College of Medicine.

"Decreasing estrogen levels can affect bone mass, making a woman more susceptible to osteoporosis," said Dr. Elizabeth Nelson, associate professor of medicine and director of the Women's Center for Comprehensive Care at BCM.

Modify risk factors

Osteoporosis is a condition that can develop if bone is not replaced as quickly as it is worn away, leaving behind porous or weak bones. Many factors can affect this condition such as heredity, age and nutritional intake.

"You can't change age or your family history, but you can modify certain risk factors," said Nelson. "Limit your alcohol intake, and stop smoking, which can increase bone loss by 10 percent."

Exercising three times a week and increasing calcium and vitamin D intake can also improve bone health. However, since each woman's health care needs differ as they enter menopause, it is important to talk to a doctor to be sure what course of action will be the most beneficial.

In general, 1,200 milligrams of calcium and 800 International Units of vitamin D should be taken daily. Screening for osteoporosis should begin at age 65, but many times women will have a screening done at age 50 to use a baseline for future tests.

"These diet and exercise modifications can begin at any age. Women should keep in mind that the best way to avoid osteoporosis is to have strong bones going into menopause," Nelson added.

Other menopause concerns

Another issue woman face after menopause is weight gain and a change in weight distribution.

"Weight gain is usually seen in the abdominal area. The best way to avoid this is to be mindful of exercise and diet. You may have to do more than you did before menopause," said Dr. Sharon Wen-Wen Chen, instructor of medicine at BCM.

Vaginal dryness and urinary incontinence are also issues that many women deal with during this time in their lives.

"Women should not think they have to live with these issues because they are a part of aging. These are all treatable," she said.

Health screenings

The average age that women go through menopause is around 50. That is also the age that other health screenings such as colonoscopies should begin.

There are also certain vaccinations like those to protect against pneumonia and shingles that should be discussed with your doctor.

Determining the regularity of these types of screenings is dependent on family history and risk factors.

Menopause has a wide range of effects on the body, so finding a doctor who specializes in these types of health issues is important. The Women's Center for Comprehensive Care at BCM is made up of physicians from a variety of specialties that can address all health care needs in a single visit. To make an appointment please call 713-798-2616.