Until you get older, you probably don’t give your “poor old bones” a thought! So why would you even think about having a bone density test? And if you’ve always taken care to look after your health – in other words, lose fat, gain muscle, and get into overall shape – you maybe don’t need to.
But then you suddenly hear that a friend has osteoporosis… Or a relative has had a diagnosis of “brittle bones” – and the phrase brings a shudder to your spine.
So let’s take a closer look at those bones and have a think about how a bone density test – as part of a complete body scan here at the Lamkin Clinic – might help you stay your 100% best.
What Is a Bone Density Scan?
A bone density scan is part of a DEXA body composition scan. The body scan uses FDA-approved technology to quantify your fat and lean masses, taking your bones into consideration. In this way, it can determine your risk for osteoporosis.
The scanning machine uses low levels of X-rays to determine the amount of calcium and other minerals in your bones. The test is 100% non-invasive: You lie on a padded table and the scanner passes over your body.
The scientific bit!
The ideal site for a bone density test is your anteroposterior (AP) spine. This weight-bearing area of your body is highly prone to osteoporotic fractures. In addition, the spine’s high concentration of soft, spongy bone makes it very responsive to bone density scans.
A bone density scan can be used to:
- Diagnose osteopenia (low bone mass)
- Diagnose osteoporosis
- Predict risk of future fractures
- Assess whether or not a treatment for osteoporosis is working
When your doctor is concerned about the risk of hip fracture or other osteoporotic fractures, the proximal femur (where the leg bone is connected to the hip joint) is the best place to do a bone mineral density (BMD) test.
What Does a Bone Density Test Show?
The results of a DEXA scan help your doctor determine the strength and thickness of your bones. If the amount of bone mineral in your bones is low, then you’re at a higher risk of fractures or breaks.
It’s normal for both men’s and women’s bones to get thinner as they age. If your bones get thinner than normal, then you have a condition called osteopenia. Unfortunately, osteopenia puts you at risk for a more serious condition called osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis is a progressive disease that can make your bones very thin and brittle. It usually affects older people and is most common in women over the age of 65. If you have osteoporosis, you’re at higher risk for fractures (broken bones), especially in your hips, spine, and wrists.
That’s why it’s good to consider a bone density test sooner rather than later. You can take the risk into consideration – and maybe say no to that ice-skating party!
Who Should Be Concerned About Bone Density?
People most at risk should think about their bone density and come in to the clinic for a bone density test. These risks factors include
- being a woman age 65 or older and a man 70 or over
- having a very low body weight
- losing a half-inch or more in height within one year
- having a family history of osteoporosis
- lacking sufficient physical activity
- having had one or more fractures after the age of 50
- smoking cigarettes
- heavy drinking
- not getting enough calcium and vitamin D in your diet
What To Do If You Have Low Bone Density?
If your doctor expresses concern about your bone density but hasn’t diagnosed you with osteoporosis, there are many natural ways to build healthy bones. Here is a quick list.
Eat your vegetables
How many times have you heard that before? Veggies are high in minerals and vitamins. Consuming a diet high in vegetables has been shown to protect bone mass in young adults and older women. In fact, a study in women over 50 found that those women who consumed onions frequently had a 20% lower risk of osteoporosis.
Performing weight-bearing and resistance training exercises promotes the formation of new bone. Multiple studies of older men and women who performed weight-bearing exercises showed increases in bone mineral density, bone strength, and bone size.
Eat your protein
50% of bone is made up of protein. Surprised? Research has shown that a low protein intake can lead to bone loss, while a high protein intake can help protect bone health. However, high protein diets can also leech minerals from your bones, so it’s best to only consume up to 100 grams of protein daily and balance it with plenty of plant foods and adequate calcium intake.
Consume foods with high nutritional values
Omega-3 fatty acids, zinc, magnesium, Vitamin D, and Vitamin K all play a significant role in bone health when you can eat foods that are high in these nutrients. If it’s difficult for you to eat these foods, you can use a supplement as well.
Treatment For Osteoporosis
If you have low bone density and your doctor has diagnosed you with osteoporosis, you will need to seek treatment. Treatment recommendations are usually based on an estimate of your risk of breaking a bone in the next 10 years.
There are many types of medications used to treat osteoporosis, but drugs come with potential risks.
That’s why it’s important is to firstly look at hormone levels. We know that hormone levels have a large effect on bone density and that age-related hormonal decline is likely to accelerate bone density losses.
Possible hormones responsible for decreasing levels are: DHEA, testosterone, growth hormone, estrogen, and progesterone.
The good news is that undergoing hormone replacement therapy not only reduces menopausal symptoms like hot flashes and mood swings but can also increase bone health. This is why you need to consult with your care provider.
Medication Isn’t Enough to Treat Osteoporosis
However, don’t rely on hormone medication alone to treat your osteoporosis. You also need to make lifestyle changes to support good bone health like:
- Participating in weight-bearing physical activity
- Committing to good nutrition
- Kicking the cigarettes to the curb
- Limiting alcohol consumption
Do You Need Help Weighing Up the Risks of Low Bone Density On Your Body?
The first thing to do is to get a bone density test. That way, your doctor has the information they need for diagnosis. Many different kinds of doctors can evaluate and treat osteoporosis. If you already have a primary care doctor or a doctor treating your fracture, start with them. If they can’t set you up for a DEXA scan, however, they can probably refer you to a specialist.
At the Lamkin Clinic, for instance, we take a comprehensive approach to identify collective contributors to symptoms and diseases and modify those naturally through lifestyle changes.
We have a variety of specialists and offer you functional medicine along with advanced diagnostic equipment, including a DEXA scanner, so that we can best serve our patients. Contact us today to set up a consultation!