- General Health -

Should You Test Your Bone Density?

A bone-density test is the gold standard for diagnosing osteoporosis — and can help you assess your risk of fracture.

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If you’re at risk for osteoporosis, testing can go a long way in helping you take steps that can prevent the condition and the needless fractures it often produces.

Some of the risk factors for fractures and osteoporosis are out of your control. These include Caucasian or Asian ethnicity, older age, thinness or small bones in women, a history of fractures, low body weight, primary relatives with osteoporosis, early menopause, rheumatoid arthritis, gastric- or intestinal-bypass surgery, hysterectomy with ovary removal, and thyroidectomy.

Factors that are within your control include smoking, alcohol consumption, a sedentary lifestyle, poor diet, and the long-term use of certain symptom-controlling medications, such as proton pump inhibitors, or PPIs.

Several tools can help you determine your personal risk of fracture, and they can motivate you to make nutrition and lifestyle adjustments. A bone-density test — also known as a dual energy x-ray absorptiometry (DXA) test — uses two low-dose beams of radiation to assess bone-mineral density. It’s the gold standard for diagnosing osteoporosis.

The International Society for Clinical Densitometry recommends DXA testing for women over 65, men over 70, anyone who has sustained a fracture after age 50, and anyone with a condition or who is on a medication associated with osteoporosis. The test is noninvasive and painless and usually takes less than 15 minutes.

If you’re at risk for osteoporosis, testing can go a long way in helping you take steps that can prevent the condition and the needless fractures it often produces. A low bone-density score is no reason to panic: Consider it a great motivator to increase weight-bearing exercises and eat more alkalizing foods.

This originally appeared in “Good Bones” in the July-August 2020 print issue of Experience Life.

is a writer and actor in Minneapolis.

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