This post is the 2nd from Dr. Dollinger in a 2-part series about Osteoporosis. If you haven’t yet read Part 1, click here to get started.
So, how do you know if you have osteoporosis or are at risk for osteoporosis? The most common way of screening is using a DXA scan, which helps to determine your bone mineral density (BMD). This test uses x-rays and makes measurements of your hips and spine. It is highly recommended for women over 65 years of age and men over 70 and may also be recommended if there is suspicion of osteoporosis, if you are a woman and go through significant hormone changes, or if you are on medication that can put you at risk for osteoporosis.
Once you have your BMD score, you can then take the World Health Organization’s FRAX test (fracture risk assessment tool). Try it by clicking this link. This test gives you a 10-year probability of either a hip or other major fracture. This can then help inform you and your doctor about what preventative steps you can take now to decrease your risk or if you need treatment.
In terms of preventative measures, getting enough calcium and vitamin D is first and foremost. For calcium, look to a diet including milk and dairy products, dark leafy greens, and other calcium-fortified foods. As for vitamin D, your body naturally creates its own vitamin D through exposure to sunlight. Given the fact that we just turned the clocks back and it’s dark by the time you put dinner on the table, a diet including foods like fish and egg yolks can help maintain good levels of vitamin D. Of course, supplements can easily do the trick as well.
Exercise is also crucial for healthy bones. Weight-bearing and impact exercise, like weight lifting and walking, helps increase muscle mass and improves balance (to guard against falls). Gravity is often overlooked in its importance to our bone health. Astronauts who embark on long space flights experience higher bone loss due to living in weightlessness. So, even exercise as slow and graceful as Tai Chi can be helpful, since it involves working against gravity (being upright) and maintaining controlled balance.
In terms of treatment, the most commonly prescribed today are bisphosphonates. They prevent the bone from breaking down and can be taken weekly, monthly, or even yearly, depending on your individual health condition. However, the important thing to remember is that there is no cure for osteoporosis (just as there is no fountain of youth). You can only slow down the process. While you can’t change your family history or your genetic inheritance, you can at least control your diet and exercise.
So, if you think you are at risk for osteoporosis, take a proactive stance and talk to your doctor about BMD screening. Or, take full advantage of the next sunny afternoon to walk to your nearest grocery store and stock up on milk, eggs, and spinach.
If you’d like more information, or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Beth Dollinger, click here to find her contact information listed in our provider directory.