Osteoporosis is the loss of bone density, and can go unnoticed and undetected until you start breaking bones – which is a scary thought because by the time your bone density is low enough to cause fractures, it is more of a challenge to exercise and enjoy a healthy quality of life without fear of additional injury or accident.
When bones begin to lose mass, they become brittle, weak, and are more likely to break. It may be a fall or even a sneeze! Early diagnosis makes a difference, and while osteoporosis is a debilitating disease, it can be prevented, treated, and it’s never too late to take steps to protect your bones.
Who’s at Risk for Getting Osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis isn’t just a disease for senior citizens…it can strike at any age. According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, millions of Americans are at risk, and while women are four times more likely than men to develop osteoporosis, it is something that both men and women should take steps to prevent.
Risk Factors for Osteoporosis Include:
- Having a small, thin frame
- Older age
- Diet low in calcium
- Lack of vitamin D
- Drinking too much alcohol
Other Reasons You Might Be at Risk Are:
- Long-term use of certain medications
- Overactive thyroid or parathyroid gland
- Early menopause
- If you’ve received certain treatments for breast or prostate cancer
- Back pain with a possible fracture
- Significant loss of height
- Or having a disease or condition that can cause bone loss – like rheumatoid arthritis or anorexia nervosa.
Check with your Doctor!
Ask you health care provider if it’s appropriate to check your BMD if you have any reasons to be concerned. The optimal way to check you bone mineral density is with a DXA scan (dual energy x-ray absorptiometry) Ideally the hip and spine should be checked for bone loss, and it’s important to be able to compare your current BMD test to your last one to identify if you are maintaining, losing, or increasing bone mass.
How is Bone Density Measured?
Bone density is measured by a T-score.
Here is what your T-Score means:
- A T-score between +1 and -1 is normal bone density. Examples are 0.8, 0.2, and -0.5.
- A T-score between -1 and -2.5 indicates low bone density or osteopenia. Example T-scores -1.2, -1.6, and -2.1.
- A T-score of -2.5 or lower is a diagnosis of osteoporosis. Examples are T-scores of -2.8, -3.3, and -3.9.
The lower the T-score, the lower the bone density. For most BMD tests a one point difference in a T-score equals a 10-15% decrease in bone density. (-2.5 is 10-15% lower BMD than -1.5.)
How to Improve Bone Density and Prevent Osteoporosis
There are medications that can assist in increasing bone density. Proper nutrition and exercise are also key components to maintaining healthy bones. Learn more about Osteoporosis, guidelines, and how to get and stay healthy from the National Osteoporosis Foundation.