Bone health is something that few of us wake up thinking about each day. However, at Allegheny Health Network, bone health is always a focus.
We can't feel our bones getting stronger, nor can we feel them getting weaker. In fact, osteoporosis is a silent disease until it is complicated by fractures that can occur following minimal trauma. The impact that bone loss and subsequent fractures can ultimately have on our quality of life once we’ve developed osteoporosis is significant.
There are many risk factors that contribute to developing osteoporosis. There are some factors that you cannot change. But there are others that you can control.
Factors You Cannot Change that Increase Your Risk
- Gender: Women are at a much higher risk than men
- Age: Risk increases as you get older
- Ethnic Background: Women of Caucasian and Asian descent
- Family History: Parents or siblings with osteoporosis or hip fractures
- Menopause: Postmenopausal or experiencing early menopause
- Sex Hormones: Reduced estrogen levels at menopause or during certain cancer treatments
Factors You Can Change to Reduce Your Risk
- Eat a diet high in calcium and vitamin D.
- Replace a sedentary lifestyle with an active one.
- Limit drinking to two alcoholic drinks per day. Alcohol interferes with your body’s ability to absorb calcium.
- Quit tobacco. It contributes to weak bones.
- X-ray tests, called DXA scans, examine your spine, hip, or wrist. DXA scans use very few x-ray waves.
- Newer sound wave tests, called ultrasounds, test your heel.
- Weight-bearing exercises- Walking, dancing, hiking, stair climbing
- Strength exercises - Free weights, elastic bands, rubber tubing, weight machines
- Flexibility exercises - Stretching, gentle yoga
- Balance exercises - Tai chi, standing on one leg
- Keep a clutter-free environment
- Install sturdy handrails on all stairs
- Repair loose or broken flooring and torn rugs
- Clean up spills immediately
- Use nonskid floor wax
- Use rubber mats in your tub or shower
- Make sure you have enough light
- Use night lights
- Wear nonslip shoes
- Stay physically active. Do weight bearing exercise like walking.
- Do not smoke.
- Limit alcohol use.
- Get enough calcium and vitamin D in your diet. Your doctor may suggest taking calcium and vitamin pills.
- FDA Drug Safety Communication: Safety update for osteoporosis drugs, bisphosphonates, and atypical fractures3
- How Long Should You Take Certain Osteoporosis Drugs?4
- Possible Fracture Risk With Osteoporosis Drugs5
- NIH Osteoporosis and Related Bone Diseases National Resource Center6
- MedlinePlus: Osteoporosis7
Bone Density Testing
During a physical exam, you should be checked to see if you lost height, weight or have back pain. After the age of 50, it is extremely important to be tested for your height to help determine bone loss.
Bone density tests measure your bone mass to determine if your bones are thinning.
There are several types of bone density tests. Some tests measure bone density in the hips, spine and total body. Other tests measure bone density in the lower arm, finger, wrist, kneecap, shinbone and heel.
With information from a bone density test, you and your health care provider can decide what prevention or treatment steps are best for you. Depending on your age and risk factors, ask your provider if you should consider a bone density test.
At Allegheny Health Network, we offer Bone Density Mineral (BMD) tests to:
- Detect osteoporosis before a fracture occurs
- Predict the chances of a fracture
- Assess the rate of bone loss with repeated measurements
- Monitor the effectiveness of medications
A Dual Energy X-Ray Absorption (DEXA) test is the most common and accurate technology which measures bone density at the hip, spine, or wrist.
When is it necessary to get a bone density screening?
- If you're a woman 65 and older
- If you're a younger, post-menopausal woman age 50 to 70 with clinical risk factors
- If you've had a fracture after age 50
- If you're taking a medication associated with low bone mass, or bone loss
- If you're being treated for osteoporosis
- If you're a postmenopausal woman discontinuing estrogen therapy
Your healthcare provider will determine if you are at increased risk for developing osteoporosis and recommend a screening test.
Find out more about this specialty at a location near you.
- Allegheny General Hospital
- Allegheny Valley Hospital
- Canonsburg Hospital
- Forbes Hospital
- Jefferson Hospital
- Saint Vincent Hospital
- West Penn Hospital
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