What you don’t know can hurt you after all — at least when it comes to the significant loss of bone density known as osteoporosis, a condition in which the bones become weak and can break more easily.

Risk Factors for Osteoporosis

Women under age 65 and men ages 50-70 are at increased risk of osteoporosis if they have:

  • A broken bone caused by normal activities, such as a fall from standing height or lower
  • Chronic rheumatoid arthritis, chronic kidney disease, eating disorders
  • Early menopause
  • History of hormone treatment for prostate cancer or breast cancer
  • Significant loss of height due to compression fractures of the back
  • Smoking
  • Strong family history of osteoporosis
  • Three or more drinks of alcohol per day on most days

Bone Densitometry Exams

Bone density testing can be done several different ways. The most common and accurate way uses a dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry that uses low-dose X-rays. During these tests, a scanner will either be passed over your lower spine and hip, or over your wrist, fingers, leg or heel. The scan itself is painless. Bone density tests will help to:

  • Diagnose bone loss and osteoporosis
  • See how well osteoporosis medicine is working
  • Predict your risk of future bone fractures.

Reducing Further Bone Loss and Prevention

If you’re diagnosed with osteoporosis or a less severe form called osteopenia, there are a few medications your doctor can prescribe to prevent further bone loss. Your doctor may also recommend calcium supplements and vitamin D, along with weight-bearing exercise, which can reduce and even reverse bone density loss.

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