Women's Wellness April 2010
Bone Up on Your Osteoporosis Knowledge
Osteoporosis is most common in women age 65 and older. This does not mean that younger women are not at risk. Women under the age of 65 who are postmenopausal should have a bone density test if they also have additional risk factors for developing osteoporosis. These risk factors for developing osteoporosis include family history of osteoporosis, an inactive lifestyle, taking certain medications (such as steroids and seizure medicines), cigarette smoking and excessive alcohol use.
The diagnosis of osteoporosis is made by measuring bone density. DEXA stands for “Dual-Energy X-ray Absorptiometry,” and is considered the most accurate test for bone density. Most physicians recommend a DEXA scan at the age of 50 when risk factors are present. However, if no risk factors are present, a baseline DEXA at menopause is still suggested. While standard X-rays show changes in bone density after about forty percent of bone loss, a DEXA scan can detect changes after minimal change. A DEXA scan lasts about 10 minutes, and exposes the patient to less radiation than a standard chest X-ray. The DEXA test gives you important information to help you understand your risk for a fracture or broken bone. It could show that you have normal bone density, or, it could show that you have low bone mass or even osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis is best treated before any signs or symptoms develop. However, if you experience unexplained bone or joint pain, height loss, or stooping, get a bone density test right away. There are things you could do at any age to prevent bone loss. Eating foods that are rich in calcium and vitamin D is important, as is regular exercise and a healthy diet. Calcium is found in a wide variety of foods, such as dairy products, salmon, broccoli, orange juice, nuts and beans. Vitamin D can also be found in dairy products, as well as fish and fortified cereals. Smoking and excessive drinking increase loss of bone mass. Stopping both will decrease your chances of developing osteoporosis.
Certain medications are used to treat osteoporosis and restore the lost bone. Doctors sometimes prescribe certain hormone medications to treat osteoporosis. Estrogen and calcitonin, for example, slow bone loss and increase bone mass in your spine and hip. Other medications, called bisphosphonates, retain calcium within the skeleton, rather than use calcium in the bone to replenish the calcium in the bloodstream. It therefore increases bone mass in your spine. Always make sure to check with your doctor about possible side effects of all hormone and medication treatments.
For more information or to make an appointment for a bone density test at a CKHS hospital or facility, call 1-866-5-CK-XRAY (1-866-525-9729).
Reviewed by Ritu Khurana, M.D., CKHS rheumatologist. Dr. Khurana has an office located at Crozer-Chester Medical Center and can be reached at (610) 449-7180.
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