People sometimes joke that they shrink as they get older. But it’s no laughing matter when a loss in bone density causes reduced height and stooped posture.
Fortunately, there are ways to strengthen your bones.
The first step is knowing where you stand. “Women want to know so they can get appropriate treatment,” said Regional One Health East Campus Medical Imaging Tech Patty Novak. “We want to live until we’re 100!”
Visiting the East Campus Imaging Center for a quick, non-invasive DEXA Scan can help.
Do you need a DEXA scan?
Novak said doctors recommend the scan for post-menopausal women and patients who take medicines that impact the bones. Steroids are one example.
The scan looks for two conditions:
- Osteopenia (lower than normal bone density)
- Osteoporosis (weak bones that are susceptible to fracture)
You do need a doctor’s order for a DEXA scan. Ask about your risk factors and request the scan if it’s appropriate.
What should you expect at your DEXA scan?
Novak said DEXA scans are painless and easy. Patients lie flat on a padded table and keep still as an X-ray machine scans over their body. They don’t need to remove their clothes. The whole process takes just 5-10 minutes.
The machine uses one high-energy and one low-energy X-ray beam. Novak said it scans the lumbar, spine and hips. For patients with a hip replacement, it scans the forearm.
Radiologists read the scan and measure bone density based on the difference between the two beams as they pass through the bones.
What if the scan shows weakened bones?
Osteoporosis can’t be totally reversed, but can be managed.
Getting more calcium is crucial. Natural food sources are the best option:
- Nonfat milk or fortified plant-based milks
- Broccoli or cauliflower
- Leafy green veggies like spinach
Avoid foods like red meat and soda. They are high in phosphorous and can hasten bone loss. Limit alcohol or caffeine. They decrease how much calcium your body absorbs.
Vitamin D is also important because it helps the body absorb calcium. Fortified foods and sunshine both provide Vitamin D.
Weight-bearing exercise also helps. Try running, walking, tennis, weightlifting, etc.
Finally – and importantly – quit smoking!
What if lifestyle changes aren’t enough?
Supplements are one option. Talk with your doctor about when and how to take them.
Doctors can also prescribe medications to treat osteoporosis. These prescriptions help prevent bone loss or even increase bone density.