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
- 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.