Osteoporosis is a bone thinning disease that affects more than 28 million Americans - nearly one-third to one-half of older American women and an increasing number of American men. While bone mass naturally decreases with age, osteoporosis speeds bone loss, making them weak, fragile, and easy to break. Often called the "silent disease" because there are no early warning signs, many people don't know they have osteoporosis until they break a bone, often in the hip, wrist, or spine, or develop a curve in their spine, known as a "dowager hump."
How We Can Help
Bone density testing is the most accurate way to assess bone health, and early diagnosis can make a difference in a patient's life. The National Osteoporosis Foundation recommends bone density testing for all women over the age of 65, and testing for women under 65 who have one or more risk factors such as:
- Fair Skin
- Small Bone Structure
- Low Body Weight
- Early Menopause
- Low Calcium Intake
- Alcohol Abuse
- Certain Long-term Medications (consult with a doctor)
- Lack of Exercise
- Family History of Osteoporosis
A simple, safe, and painless test, called a "DEXA," (which stands for Dual Energy X-Ray Absorptiometry) provides a precise measurement of bone density. DEXA tests use an ultra-low dose X-ray to scan and measure bone mineral density at various parts of the body, usually the spine and hips. The test will provide a "T" score, which indicates if a patient is as low, medium, or high risk of osteoporosis.
How To Prepare for a Bone Density Test
Bone density tests are safe, painless and noninvasive. The entire scan will take about 30 minutes, but a few tips will help the process go even more smoothly. Our caring radiological technicians will walk patients through each step of the exam to make sure they are comfortable. During the exam, patients will lie flat on their backs on a table and will be asked to hold still. The technologist will remain with the patient the entire time. Some tips to help you prepare are:
- Wear sweat pants (or elastic waist pants).
- Do not wear any clothing with metal zippers, buttons, or snaps.
- Please wear sneakers or a closed shoe; no sandals or clogs.
- It is okay to eat anytime before or after the exam.
- Be prepared to lie flat on back without moving during the exam (approximately 15 minutes).
We will provide the test results to a patient's primary care or referring physician within one week of the test.
It is never to late to stop bone loss. A few simple steps can prevent or slow down osteoporosis:
- Eat a well balanced diet with plenty of calcium and vitamin D (your doctor should provide the correct dosage). People can get these nutrients through food, but if diet does not provide enough, patients should speak to their healthcare provider about vitamin and mineral supplements, or visit our Nutrition Services.
- Get regular physical activity: the more a body makes bones and muscles work, the stronger they get. Weight-bearing activities, such as walking and stair climbing, help build muscles in the feet and legs. Use of any kind of weight - hand or ankle weights, soup cans, weight machines, or plastic bottles filled with sand - strengthens muscles and bones. Balance and posture are important to keep people standing straight and reduce the risk of falling. Dancing, Yoga, and Tai Chi are examples of safe activities that help with balance and posture.
- Protect yourself from falls: reduce the leading cause of broken bones by wearing low-heeled, rubber soled shoes, install railings on both sides of stairways, avoid scatter rugs, remove loose wires and cords, and keeping hallways, stairs, and room entrances well lit. In the kitchen, use non-skid wax on floors, wipe up spills immediately, and use a sturdy step stool to reach cabinets. In the bathroom, use no-skid mats and a sturdy grab bar in the bathtub and shower.
Information and Locations
A primary care physician will recommend a bone density test and will need to schedule the appointment for the patient. Call one of our locations for more information or to request an appointment. Bone density scans are conducted at:
Lawrence Memorial Medical Services
101 Main Street, Suite 116, Medford
830 Main Street, Melrose
18 Porter Street, Melrose
3 Woodland Road, Stoneham
Hallmark Health Medical Center
30 New Crossing Road, Reading