Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is a major health threat to millions of Americans. If left untreated, osteoporosis can be both debilitating and painful. The best way to avoid osteoporosis is to determine your risk and then take steps to prevent the disease. It is important to start early. With proper diet and exercise, you might be able to slow or prevent the onset of osteoporosis. If you already have the disease, early detection and proper medical care can help slow or even reverse its progress.

The word osteoporosis means “porous bone.” As we age, our bones naturally lose thickness and strength. This weakness in bone strength leads to an increased risk of fractures.

Ten million Americans already have osteoporosis, and more than triple that number are at high risk. Approximately 80 percent of those who have the disease are women. In fact, a woman’s risk of osteoporosis is equal to her combined risk of breast, ovarian and uterine cancer.

Bone loss in women begins at about age 30 and accelerates after menopause. Women over the age of 50 have the greatest risk of developing osteoporosis, but the disease can strike at any age. It is important to remember that the disease is not limited to women. Many people, including health professionals, mistakenly think of osteoporosis as a woman’s disease. But think about it: if eight of 10 million people who have osteoporosis are women, then two million men have it too. This might surprise you, but a man older than 50 is more likely to break a bone due to osteoporosis than he is to get prostate cancer.

Osteoporosis is referred to as a “silent” disease because it often progresses without symptoms or pain. Unfortunately, this means people often do not realize they have osteoporosis until either they have a fracture or have a screening test ordered by their doctor to check for it. Your doctor can help you decide when and if you need a bone density test. Bone density testing is used to assess the strength of the bones and the probability of fracture in persons at risk for osteoporosis. The test is a simple, noninvasive procedure that takes just minutes. Bone density testing can help your health care provider confirm a diagnosis of osteoporosis even in its earliest stages, so treatment can begin sooner. In addition, when repeated over time, it can be used to monitor your rate of bone loss and can help your health care provider monitor your response to treatment.

The Breast and Bone Density Center at Covenant Medical Center provides the most accurate test available for detecting osteoporosis and other bone diseases. It is called the DEXA (dual-energy x-ray absorpitometry) scan. This test, which takes about 10 to 15 minutes, measures the bone loss in your hips and spine. The DEXA scan is similar to having a standard x-ray with only a very small amount of radiation being used.

Talk to your health care provider about your risks of developing osteoporosis. To schedule an appointment for a DEXA scan at The Women’s Center at Covenant Medical Center, call 319.272.7080.