According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, “approximately 10 million Americans have osteoporosis and another 44 million have low bone density.” Osteoporosis is a disease which causes a loss of density within the bones, making them weak and prone to fractures. It’s a serious condition that can have a huge negative impact on your quality of life and the activities that you are able to enjoy. Adults over the age of 65 are at more risk of developing this condition, and women are often at a higher risk than men. In the past, osteoporosis often went undiagnosed until a patient was injured and fractured one or more bones; unfortunately, at that point, it can be difficult to treat the condition and slow down the deterioration of the bones. But today, patients who have multiple risk factors for osteoporosis may be sent to our Xray team for a bone density scan.
Why Bone Density Matters
Losing your bone density can lead to an increased risk of fractures. While a fracture of the bone might seem like a small matter when compared to heart disease or cancer, it can actually be life-threatening. The National Osteoporosis Foundation states that “24 percent of hip fracture patients age 50 and over die in the year following the fracture.” Many patients who fracture their hips are no longer able to live on their own and will require the help of a live-in caretaker or need to be moved into a nursing home. It can greatly impact the quality of life and prevent people from joining in on activities that they used to enjoy. This can lead to isolation and even depression. So while a broken bone might seem like a little thing, it can be indicative of larger problems on the horizon.
What Is a Bone Density Scan?
The scan is sometimes referred to as a DXA, which means Dual-Energy X-Ray Absorptiometry. A bone density scan is a bit like having an x-ray. You’ll simply lay on a table while the machine does its work. It’s not confined like an MRI machine, so patients who are apprehensive about small, confined spaces will not experience that same discomfort during a bone density scan. The scan uses only a small amount of radiation, so it’s less than other forms of imaging but still something to be aware of, especially if you’ve had multiple scans in the past. The scan takes less than an hour and you’ll be able to resume your normal activities directly after.
Who Should Have a Bone Density Scan?
Your doctor will let you know if you are at risk for bone density loss and whether or not you should come in for a scan. Some of the risk factors for osteoporosis and loss of bone density include:
- You have been or are currently a smoker
- You are currently or have been a heavy drinker
- You are underweight
- You’ve been taking medicine known to affect bone density
- You have a history of breaking bones
- Your parents have a history of osteoporosis or low bone density
- You’ve had an illness associated with reduced bone density
- You’ve experienced a loss in your overall height
- You’ve noticed a change in your posture
Any of these factors could bring you into our office for a scan soon. However, after the age of 65, it’s a good idea to be scanned every few years. That’s because bone loss occurs naturally as we age; bone tissue starts to break down faster than our bodies are able to replace it.
You can discuss having a scan with your doctor and see if they agree that it’s the right move for your wellbeing. Many insurance companies will cover the cost of the DXA scan.
What the Results of a Bone Scan Will Tell You
Once your doctor has the results of your bone density scan, they will be able to tell you how your scan measures up against other people your age. You’ll likely go back for a bone density scan every couple of years, and the doctor will be able to look at how your results change over time. The information tells your doctor how likely your bones are to fracture; the less bone density that you have, the more likely they are to break. If your results are cause for concern, then your doctor will prescribe treatment.
Possible Treatment Options for Low Bone Density
The main form of treatment for low bone density is an osteoporosis medication. This medication will work to increase the amount of bone tissue that your body is producing. You can help it be more effective by getting plenty of exercise and eating healthy meals packed with calcium and Vitamin D. You’ll be sent back for a DXA scan about every two years so your physician can compare your results and determine whether or not the medication is working.
You Can Help Your Body Fight Bone Loss
Even if you have many of the risk factors listed above, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you are automatically doomed to having osteoporosis. There are things that you can do to help your body keep your bones strong and healthy.
Exercise. All exercise is good for your body, but weight lifting exercises are particularly good for your bones. Strength training has been shown to promote more bone growth in the body, preventing loss. It also helps strengthen the muscles surrounding the bones, giving them more support and preventing fractures from occurring.
Get the right nutrients. Your body uses both calcium and Vitamin D as two of the main ingredients in bone building. If you aren’t getting enough of them, then your body will have a tough time replacing the bone tissue you are losing.
Has your doctor recommended that you get a bone density scan? Or do you have reasons to be concerned and want to be checked? Our imaging centers offer bone density scanning that can help accurately determine whether or not you are at risk of fractures. Talk to your doctor and tell them you’d like to be referred to our facility. If you have questions about our scans or other imaging services like x-rays or MRIs, get in touch with our team by giving us a call or contacting us through our website.