HEALTH

New study suggests link between vasomotor symptoms, osteoporosis

BY Allison Cerra

BOONTON, N.J. A new study, published in the journal Menopause, found postmenopausal women with vasomotor symptoms — which include hot flashes and night sweats — had lower bone mineral density in the spine and hips.

Researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, and colleagues analyzed data from over two thousand women between the ages of 42 and 52 who participated in the bone sub-study of the Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation. The authors of the UCLA study also found premenopausal women and early perimenopausal women who had vasomotor symptoms were found to have lower femoral neck bone mineral density than those without vasomotor symptoms.

According to bone expert, Warren Levy, PhD, although the extent of correlation varied depending on the stage of menopause and the frequency of vasomotor symptoms, the findings did support earlier studies by others that have suggested an association between low estradiol levels, vasomotor symptoms, and low bone density.

“The concept of assessing bone health via the amount or intensity of hot flashes is interesting and may provide another method for screening for osteoporosis,” suggested Levy, who is also CEO of Unigene Laboratories Inc., a biopharmaceutical company focused on peptide-based nasally and orally delivered osteoporosis treatments. “However, the gold standard today is a bone scan which is widely available and inexpensive for most patients. The study does help raise awareness about the importance of being vigilant about bone loss during this part of one’s life, and encourages regular bone scans, if possible, because even early perimenopausal women can experience significant bone loss.”

Some patients may opt to wait out their hot flashes so as not to take estrogen supplementation.

“We hope that the new findings will encourage physicians and patients to also consider the various treatment options that are available without the use of estrogen-based products,” said Levy, who believes that as life expectancy rates continue to rise, osteoporosis will have a greater impact on national health and quality of life. “If there are acceptable alternatives for patients with osteoporosis or low bone density, the side effect/safety profile of each drug should be considered carefully before treatment decisions are made.”

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