Find Out If You Are At Risk Of Bone Loss

Often there are no symptoms until fractures actually occur. In the United States, over 28 million people at this moment are at high risk of developing osteoporosis. Up to 1.5 million fractures a year are attributable to osteoporosis. This is this especially important for women because women are at greatest risk. One third of Caucasian women over the age of 50 have osteoporosis, yet nearly 80% remain undiagnosed. A post menopausal woman has three times the likelihood of suffering an osteoporotic spine or femur fracture compared to a man of the same age.

Q) Why does osteoporosis happen? What can I do to prevent this?
A) The cause of osteoporosis is complex and has several causes. It is believed to be an inevitable consequence of aging. Risk factors that accelerate bone loss include: menopause, overactive thyroids, insulin dependant diabetes, liver and renal isease as well as taking certain drugs. Bone loss can be reduced by treatment, but it is difficult to restore the micro-architecture of the skeleton after the bone loss has occurred. Therefore, early detection and intervention is crucial. Bone densitometry is an essential tool in osteoporosis management. It assists physicians in diagnosis of bone loss -- and therefore determining the risk of fracture-- and it monitors response to therapy.

Q) What is bone densitometry? 
A) A bone densitometry machine uses an enhanced form of x-ray technology to measure bone density. The machine sends a painless, thin, invisible beam of low-dose x-rays into the bones that are being examined and can determine the density.

Q) How often should I have this test? 
A) The risk of developing osteoporosis varies. Typically, this test is performed every 1-3 years. 

Q) How much radiation am I being exposed to? 
A) The amount of radiation used is extremely small, typically less than one-tenth the dose of a standard chest x-ray, and less than a day’s exposure to natural radiation from the sun and the ground. 

Q) How is the test interpreted?
A) Since the hip bones and the lower spine are the most prone to fracture, these sites are often the ones tested. The data is processed through advanced computer software and a radiologist interprets the results. After analyzing the bone density of the spine, the computer will graft the data to determine whether the bone is normal, borderline (osteopenic), or has osteoporosis. 

Q) What should I wear? 
A) Metal interferes with accurate calculation of this test. Comfortable, loose fitting clothing, such as a jump suit, is ideal. Try to avoid garments that have zippers, belts or buttons made of metal. 

Q) What can I do to prevent osteoporosis?
A) Quick easy steps that can be taken include having a balanced diet rich in calcium and vitamin D as well as 30 minutes of exercise each day. It is important to stop smoking and drinking excessively. Prescription medications to treat osteoporosis are available and should be discussed with your primary care provider.