Osteoporosis: What You Should Know

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Maybe you’ve heard of osteoporosis but assumed it was something to worry about in old age. Not the case, experts say. Taking steps now to improve your bone health can have valuable benefits for our bones for years to come.

What is osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is a bone disease that occurs when the body loses too much bone, the body makes too little bone – or both. This results in decreased bone strength and bone mass, which in turn significantly increases the risk of broken bones. Bones can become so weak that in serious cases of osteoporosis, broken bones result simply from sneezing or a minor bump.

Can you prevent osteoporosis?

While you can’t prevent certain risk factors – sex, age, body size, race, family history – you can make the lifestyle choice to maintain healthy bones.

  •  Eat a well-balanced diet.
  • Make sure to eat and drink enough calcium and vitamin D – discuss using supplements with your doctor if necessary.
  • Don’t smoke.
  • Minimize alcohol intake.
  • Stay active and healthy.
  • Do weight-bearing exercises regularly.

The risk factors do come into play with osteoporosis. For example, females develop osteoporosis more than males. The older you are, the greater your risk for osteoporosis because your bones weaken in old age. Taller women and slender, thin-framed women also develop osteoporosis more frequently. The disease affects many races and sexes; however, Caucasian women are at the highest risk. Susceptibility to osteoporosis and fractures also appears to be hereditary.

What is a DEXA Scan?

If your doctor is evaluating you for osteoporosis, he or she will order a DEXA scan. A DEXA (dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry) scan is the most widely recognized test for measuring bone mineral density. It’s quick, painless, non-invasive and typically takes about 30-45 minutes.

DEXA measures bones at locations that are prone to fracture – hip, spine and wrist. Bone density measurements by DEXA at the hip and spine are generally the most reliable way to diagnose osteoporosis and predict fracture risk.

“Many people think that osteoporosis is a natural and unavoidable part of aging,” says Debbie Moellman, lead bone densitometrist at the St. Elizabeth Women’s Wellness Center. “However, now the medical community has found that osteoporosis is largely preventable. The goal of diagnosing osteoporosis is preventing fractures.”

Debbie has firsthand knowledge of osteoporosis – she has been performing bone density scans since St. Elizabeth first purchased a DEXA scanner in 1996.

Make an appointment for a DEXA scan at St. Elizabeth

If you are interested in learning more about osteoporosis, ask your physician, especially if you have risk factors and you have not had a DEXA scan in two years. A DEXA scan does require a physician referral. Visit our website or call (859) 655-7400 to learn more.