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Osteoporosis and Bone Density Testing

Posted Sep 16 2009 8:30am

What is Osteoporosis?
Often associated with age, osteoporosis is a condition that, with time, causes gradual loss of bone mass. Becoming more porous and therefore more fragile, bones develop a greater risk of fracturing, particularly vertebrae, hip bones and wrists. Called a "silent disease" it doesn't cause any pain until it results in a fracture.

 

While it can appear at any age, osteoporosis is most common in post-menopausal women, due to hormonal changes that take place. Estrogens play a crucial role in maintaining bone health. In people over 50, osteoporosis affects 1.4 million Canadians: approximately one in eight men and one in four women.

Are you at risk?

  • Are you a woman over 50 or a man over 70?
  • Are you small-boned?
  • Is your diet low in calcium and vitamin D?
  • Do you drink a lot of acohol?
  • Do you dring the equivalent of more than four cups of coffee per day?
  • Is your back painful or curving forward?

If you answered "yes" to one or more of the above questions, you may be at risk. If you are post-menopausal, a person over 65 years old or a person otherwise considered at risk, it is recommended that you contact your doctor so it can be determined, as soon as possible, whether or not you have Osteoporosis. As well as evaluating risk factors, your doctor may require a bone densinometry scan to evaluate the mineral content of your bones, x-rays, blood and urine tests.

 

What is a bone density test?

A bone density or bone mineral density (BMD) test is used to diagnose osteoporosis.

During a bone density test, a special kind of x-ray machine is used to take pictures and measure the mineral content or density of your bones. Thick or high-density bones are strong, healthy bones. Test results can help your doctor determine if you have, or are at risk of developing, osteoporosis and can inform your physician about the likelihood of your developing a fracture in the future.

Only your doctor can refer you for a bone density test. Your doctor will use the results to develop a prevention and/or treatment plan for you, should this be necessary.

 

How is a bone density test done?

You will be asked to lie on your back on a comfortable padded table. A scanner will take pictures of one or more areas of your body, usually the lower back, hip and knee regions. The scanner is connected to a computer that converts the pictures of your bones into bone density measures. A report that includes your bone density measurements and a comparison of your results to bone density measures for people of the same age and gender as you will be sent to your family doctor. Your doctor will discuss the test results with you and advise you about how to maintain or improve your bone health.

Is bone density testing safe?

Bone density testing is safe and painless. It does not involve needles. It involves a small dose of radiation, less than one-tenth the dosage of a chest x-ray. It is very important to notify your doctor or your technologist if you are pregnant, or if you may be pregnant before having your bone density test.

How long will the test take?

The entire process takes about 20 to 30 minutes to complete, depending on the number of regions measured.

How often should I have a bone density test?

It is recommended that most people with osteoporosis have a bone density test every 12 to 24 months. Please speak with your doctor about the frequency of tests you need.

How do I prepare for a bone density test?

  • Wear loose, comfortable clothing. Sweat suits and other casual attire without zippers, snaps or metal trim are ideal.
  • Eat and drink normally on the day of the test.
  • Do not take calcium pills on the day before your test.
  • Wait one week after having a bone scan or barium study before having a bone density test.
  • Call us if you are concerned about

Did you know... The most important time for bone development is between the ages of 10 and 30? The later you wait to take care of your bones, the harder it will be to improve things.

  • Get some exercise - walk, play tennis, lift weights
  • increase your intake of calcium - milk, dark green vegetables, salmon, soy-based foods, supplements
  • Increase your intake of vitamin D - fish, milk, egg yolks, cheese, sun (moderately and with adequate protection)
  • Reduce your coffee consumption - two cups a day maximum
  • Reduce your alcohol consumption - No more than two drinks per day
  • Stop smoking - tobacco causes bone loss
  • Eat lots of protein - Focus on foods that provide protein

Daily calcium requirements through the stages of life:

0-3 years - between 200 and 500mg

4-8 years - 800mg

9-18 years- 1300mg

19-50 years- 1000mg

Adults over 50 - 1500mg Pregnanct or nursing women - 1000mg

 

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