Osteoporosis is often called the ‘silent disease’ because there are no symptoms, although there are risk factors we can look for. It can only be diagnosed by undergoing a bone density test which is done before any bones are broken. The test shows the density of our bones and the chance of breaking a bone. As previously mentioned, as we age our bones become less dense and brittle and even a small bump can result in a fracture.
What is involved in a Bone Density Test?
The test itself is painless and is a scan that measures your bone density usually in your hip and spine. You lie flat on a bed, fully clothed and the machine passes over you and usually takes 10-15 minutes. This is a DXA (dual energy x-ray absorptiometry) machine and the test is non-invasive. The National Osteoporosis Foundation, suggests that this type of test can ‘predict the future likelihood of breaks in other bones’ by providing a ‘T’ score. The T-score is then combined with other risk factors to determine your actual risk of breaking a bone.
Who should have a Bone Density Test?
Anyone OVER 50 should have a bone density test – women and men. Usually your G.P. will determine your risk factors before referring you for a test. If you are on medication for Osteoporosis you will have this test usually every 1 – 2 years.
What are some of the risk factors to look for?
Osteoporosis Australia outlines some of the following risk factors to look for:
- Women are at greater risk of developing Osteoporosis due to the decline of oestrogen during menopause. Men also lose bone density as they age but their testostorone levels fall slower.
- Family history
- Calcium and Vitamin D deficiency
- Weight – too thin or too overweight
- Lack of exercise
- Some medications
- Low hormone levels
- Overactive Thyroid
Osteoporosis Australia Director, Professor Peter Ebeling AO has produced a fact sheet. The following link Are Your Bones in the Danger Zone shows the risks categorised into Red Alert and Orange Alert and if you tick any of these you should consult your doctor.
Have you had a Bone Density Test? Should you be discussing this with your doctor?
In the next article, I discuss Why Exercise is important in maintaining good bone strength
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