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Osteoporosis and Bone Density Testing

What is Osteoporosis?
As we age, our bone mass declines faster than new bone can form. This can result in osteoporosis, or "porous bones," a potentially crippling disease that makes bones weak and susceptible to fractures. Osteoporosis can affect men and women of any age, but occurs mostly in women after menopause. It is called the "silent disease" because loss of bone mass has no symptoms and usually causes no pain until a bone fractures (breaks). The hip, spine and wrist bones are the ones most affected by osteoporosis. Hip fractures can result in disability and loss of mobility and independence. Spinal fractures cause a loss of height, severe back pain, and curving of the shoulders and spine.

What increases your chances of getting osteoporosis?
The cause of osteoporosis is unknown, but a number of factors contribute to the development of bone loss, including:

  • being female – women have a greater risk of developing osteoporosis
    menopausal and postmenopausal women are at greatest risk because of the loss of estrogen, which helps maintain bone strength (including early or surgically-induced menopause)
  • your risk increases as you age
  • culture or ethnicity - people of caucasian or asian descent have a higher risk for osteoporosis
  • bone structure - small-boned and thin women are at greater risk
  • dietary factors - calcium and vitamin D deficiencies in your diet contribute to osteoporosis
  • inactivity - lack of exercise can put you at risk for osteoporosis
  • cigarettes and caffeine - smoking and drinking more than two cups of coffee a day are associated with reduced bone density. Also, women who smoke, particularly after menopause, have a significantly greater chance of bone loss
  • family history of osteoporosis - several studies have strongly suggested that genetic factors help determine bone density
  • some medications, if taken for a long time, can contribute to bone loss

How can you prevent osteoporosis?
Although there is no cure for osteoporosis, it may be prevented. Many risk factors such as poor diet, lack of exercise and smoking can be avoided. It is never too late to begin taking steps to prevent osteoporosis or to slow or stop its progress, including:

Diet - Women over the age of 50 need at least 1,200 milligrams of calcium with at least 400 units of vitamin D every day. The best source of dietary calcium is from milk fortified with vitamin D. Vitamin D is an essential companion to calcium in maintaining strong bones. Eat well and take calcium supplements with vitamin D as recommended by your healthcare provider.

Exercise - Regular exercise is important in maintaining bone mass and increasing strength. Physical activities that help keep bones strong are weight-bearing exercises like walking and bicycling, resistance exercise such as weight training, and non-weight bearing exercises such as swimming.

How can I detect osteoporosis?
Saint Elizabeth Imaging Center offers advanced bone densitometry testing (DEXA Scan), which rapidly measures accurate bone mineral density and evaluates for vertebral fractures, and osteoporosis. This is a safe, simple, and painless test that only takes a few minutes and can diagnose osteoporosis and monitor your rate of bone loss and response to therapy. A specialized x-ray detector scans your hips, spine, or both and then calculates the density of your bones. The results are compared to a database of other patients of similar age and sex as well as a database of young, normal bone density values. Please note, a physician’s order is required and your physician will receive a full report of your test results.

Saint Elizabeth bone density testing:

  • provides vertebral fracture assessment, which is a scan for non-traumatic fractures in the vertebral bodies, which may indicate osteoporosis
  • computer aided detection, which quantifies and displays the degree of vertebral compression, to help confirm the existence and severity of vertebral deformities
  • offers comfort and convenience. A DEXA Scan involves no injections or disrobing and takes only minutes to complete while you lie comfortably on your back. You can also schedule your mammogram at the same appointment time

When should you have a bone density test?

  • a baseline study for women should be done starting at the age of 50, or for those who have begun menopause
  • women 65 and older
  • postmenopausal women with one or more risk factors or who have had a fracture

For your convenience, we have walk-in and same-day bone density tests available at our Imaging Center from 7:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Or, you can schedule an appointment by calling the Saint Elizabeth CARE Office at 402-219-7123.