Bone density has not been talked about very much until the last 5-7 years. However, today startling facts have come to light. One in 2 women, and one in 4 men,over the age of 50, will break a bone due to osteoporosis. Pretty scarey when you see statistics like that.
So, what is Osteoporosis and is it really such a big deal? Osteoporosis is a progressive bone disease in which the density of the bone is decreased & the structural integrity of the bone is impaired, thus making the bone more brittle. The cortex, or outer portion of the bone, becomes thinner and more porous, thus making it more prone to fractures. This disease affects 75 million people in the United States, Europe, and Japan. It is known to cause at least 1.3 million fractures each year in the U.S. alone. Since the disease often shows no symptoms, many people do not know they have it until they actually break a bone.
Now, that we see how important bone density is to our health, just what can we do to protect our bone health or even improve it? You should start with a sit down visit to your physician. They will begin by taking a look at your diet and your lifestyle. A good healthy diet with adequate calcium and Vitamin D can help to keep your bones strong. Bones store extra calcium for basic body functions. However, when we don't get enough calcium our body robs our bones of this calcium and it makes our bones weaker. Talk honestly to your Doctor about your diet and possible calcium supplements. You should also think about increasing your activity level. Exercise, especially weight bearing exercise, is proven to increase your bone strength and bone density. It can also help your muscle strength which takes pressure off your bones. Another important fact; Smoking, excessive alcohol intake, and also phosophoric acid from carbonated beverages, have all been shown to decrease the calcium in your bones. There is a lot you can do to help protect your bones and your health the natural way.
Your Dr. will next recommend that you have a Bone Density Test. This a simple, painless procedure usually performed in the X Ray Department. It can help the Dr. diagnose osteoporosis in the earliest stages. The test is a major predictor of the strength of the bones and how they can withstand stresses. If your bone density is reduced by a significant amount then you are considered to have osteoporosis.
The most common test to measure Bone Density is called the DEXA Scan. It takes xrays using a minimal amount of radiation, of the lower spine, hips and perhaps the hands and wrists. This test compares your bone density levels to those of a healty young adult. Anything above a Minus 1 is considered normal bone density. For those within the -1 to -2.5, you are depleting your bone mass. Below the 2.5 level you are considered to have osteoporosis. Doctors recommend all women over the age of 60 to have a DEXA scan, and all men over 70. The disease is especially prevalent in this age group. Some younger patients with a family history of osteoporosis may need to followed closely and have a DEXA scan sooner.
For patients who are diagnosed with Osteoporosis there are many options for treatment. There are several medications on the market that have proven very effective in combating the disease. Also, there is more information than ever out there regarding better diets, different exercise methods, etc. All these things are vitally important in helping you to stay healthy and protect your bone density.
Elaine is a Registered Xray tech who has been working in the field for 32 years. You can find more information regarding DEXA scans and other Radiology information on her blog.