Routine bone density screening does not usually start until you are several years post-menopausal, but you may have other risk factors that may require earlier or more frequent testing. If you have questions, ask one of our women’s healthcare providers about your bone health.
Why You Might Need Bone Density Tests
Estrogen helps protect against bone loss. As women age, they produce less estrogen, putting middle age and post-menopausal women at risk for osteoporosis. It is important to note that age is not the only risk factor for osteoporosis. Your provider may recommend a bone density test if you have:
- Lost height: People who have lost one and a half inches or more of height may have compression features in their spines. Osteoporosis is one of the main causes of spinal compression fractures.
- Fractured bones: A fragility fracture occurs when a bone becomes fragile enough that it breaks more easily than expected. These fractures can be caused by something as simple as coughing or sneezing.
- Long-term use of specific drugs: Long-term use of steroids like prednisone interferes with your body’s bone-rebuilding process, which can lead to osteoporosis.
- A drop in hormone levels: Lowered sex hormone levels, like estrogen, weaken bone integrity. Women experience a natural drop in these hormones during and after menopause. Estrogen is also known to drop during certain cancer treatments, leaving patients vulnerable to brittle or weakened bones.
What is a Bone Density Test?
A bone density test is the only way to identify if you have osteoporosis. Testing is used to identify decreases in bone density and can determine your risk for fractures. The higher your bone mineral content, the denser your bones are. When your bones are dense, they are usually less at risk for fractures.
The bone density test is called a Dual Energy X-Ray Absorptiometry (DEXA) scan. It takes about ten minutes to complete. During the scan, you will lie down while the imager scans your body. Bone density measurements are taken at your heel, spine, hip, hand, or wrist. The scan is a painless process that is done in no time at all.
When to Schedule Bone Density Testing
Your Capital Women’s Care provider will help you decide if you should undergo a DEXA scan. There are a few common factors that determine if and how often you should be tested.
- If you are 65 years or older
- If you have two or more risk factors for osteoporosis, or a history of osteoporosis in your family
- If you have had bone fractures due to brittle bones
- If your last scan had a negative T-score between -1.5 and -2.49
- If you have rheumatoid arthritis
- If you have a history of alcoholism or smoking
In addition to daily exercise and a diet rich in calcium – both of which not only help prevent but also slow bone loss – there are medications available to inhibit bone loss and reduce the risk of fracture. The providers at Capital Women’s Care will talk with you about the role hormone therapy (HT) plays in osteoporosis prevention and treatment, as well as the other medications available to help slow down bone loss and improve bone density.
Bone Health Screenings Near You
Capital Women’s Care has several DEXA Centers throughout Maryland. Capital Women’s Care DEXA Centers offer the most advanced technology, medical expertise, evaluation, and clinical interpretation available. Speak to a provider at Capital Women’s Care about your bone health and any risk factors you may have. Our providers are devoted to your wellness and want to help you live your best, healthiest life. Schedule an appointment today with one of our women’s health specialists near you.