Anxiety has already been known to be harmful to our body in many ways, such increased cardiovascular risks. It’s now becoming apparent that anxiety and persistent stress are linked to an increased risk of bone fractures in postmenopausal women as per a recently published study in the journal of The North American Menopause Society (NAMS).
Postmenopausal women are already prone to developing osteoporosis, for which they are prescribed vitamin D. Their risk of developing fractures is a major concern and this risk grows as they age. Stress and anxiety now add to this concern by adding another common predisposing factor.
Studies have shown that women with anxiety disorders were almost twice as likely to develop osteoporosis than were those without anxiety. High anxiety levels have been shown to be associated with low bone mineral density, which is a key indicator of fracture risk. The most common sites of osteoporotic fractures in these women are the lumbar spine and femoral neck.
In addition to these risk factors, cigarette smoking, sedentary lifestyle and prolonged use of steroids are major risk factors of osteoporosis-related increased fracture risk.
There are several ways anxiety may affect bone health. It is postulated that there may be some degree of systemic inflammation in people with high anxiety levels, which leads to bone loss. Anxiety and stress cause high cortisol levels in the blood, which has a known effect on bone demineralization and brittleness. Anxiety may cause more oxidative stress, which may be related to osteoporosis in postmenopausal women. To make matters worse, you may be more prone to falls if you have an anxiety disorder. Furthermore, some antidepressants may also cause a decrease in bone mineral density as well.
Based on this, it is becoming increasingly evident that mental issues, specifically anxiety and stress should be addressed in all patients – this is even more important in women postmenopausal age as stress and anxiety in this population can lead to significantly high fracture risk. Approximately 7% of the world suffers from an anxiety disorder, and it is as common in women. There is a link between anxiety and low vitamin D levels, which might explain the connection between anxiety disorder and bone fractures.
Women’s peak bone mass is said to be at age 35. Ever woman seeing a doctor should be screened for anxiety disorders and high-stress levels during their clinic visits. They should be taking 1200 mg of calcium a day in order to minimize the risk of developing osteoporosis. It is also important to have sufficient magnesium and vitamin D — from either sun exposure or supplements. Furthermore, having a healthy lifestyle with activities such as walking, lifting weights, ensure good bone health.
In addition, these women should also avoid smoking, excessive drinking, taking excessive thyroid replacement medications, and/or medications such as steroids or proton pump inhibitors. If anxiety issues are indeed found on screening, they should be addressed and professionally handled – with various techniques including mindfulness, cognitive therapy, self-calming strategies, yoga, etc.