Women: Get your DEXA Scan Now

Dem BonesPrevention is the key in fighting the debilitating effects of osteoporosis

By Triston V. Sanders and Erica Spivey 

With no symptoms, osteoporosis is a thief that slowly steals the calcium in your bones. And it starts its work when you’re 30 – or even younger – deteriorating your bones and putting you at greater risk for fractures of the hip, spine and wrist.

Are you at risk? If you are a woman, your chances of developing osteoporosis are greater. The older you are, the greater your risk. If you are a small, thin-boned woman, you are at greater risk. Women of northern European descent you should be concerned. And people who have a family history may also be at risk of the disease.

Those are the risk factors you can’t change. But there are also lifestyle choices that can impact your chances of developing osteoporosis. People who ingest a diet low in calcium and people who have inactivity due to decreased weight-bearing exercise are at increased risk of osteoporosis. If you are a smoker or drink alcohol excessively, your risk of bone loss and fractures gets even worse.

Help yourself by making sure you’re getting enough calcium in your diet. Optimal calcium intake for people between the ages of 19-50 is about 1,000 milligrams of calcium per day. Those 50 and older need about 1,200 milligrams of calcium daily. Post-menopausal women not using hormone replacement therapy and men and women older than 65 need 1,500 milligrams per day along with 800 milligrams of vitamin D.  

Weight-bearing exercise goes hand-in-hand with nutrition. It enhances what you’re trying to do with food intake and with the calcium in your diet. Even walking 20 to 30 minutes a day can keep your bones stronger and in turn, decreases your risk of a fracture. Simple things qualify as weight-bearing exercises, such as climbing stairs, dancing, speed-walking, jogging, racquet sports and hiking. Shelia Herbermann, radiology technologist and spokesperson for osteoporosis and bone heath at Sacred Heart Hospital says it is important to check with your physician prior to jumping into any exercise so that you can be aware of all concerns. “Especially with our bone health as we get older and with other risk factors we need to know how strong our bones are before engaging in physical exercise,” says Herbermann.

A bone density test – a simple, painless form of diagnostic X-ray – can help you find out if you have osteoporosis. And, if you are diagnosed with osteoporosis, prescription medicines are available to keep the bones from losing further calcium and decrease the chance of having a fracture. They have minor side effects, so you need to be under the care of a doctor while you’re on them.

Osteoporosis is a silent disease. You may not be aware you have it unless you have a DEXA scan done or a broken bone from the weakness caused by osteoporosis.

“Not only is the DEXA scan used to determine if you are osteoporotic, it is also used to monitor treatment for those who are on medication for osteoporosis,” says Herbermann.

Sacred Heart on the Emerald Coast offers the DEXA scan at their new Women’s Imaging Department.