Tests, screening procedures women should undergo to check their bone health
There are certain factors that leave women vulnerable to osteoporosis. Here are few tests/screening procedures women should undergo to check their bone health
Bone health is critical to overall health and quality of life and a poor bone mass level can lead you to develop osteoporosis, which causes bones to become weak or brittle. Women are more likely to develop osteoporosis as compared to men, which makes it crucial for them to take care of their bone health.
Osteoporosis causes bones to become so weak and brittle, that even a fall or mild stress such as bending over or coughing can cause a fracture. Women tend to have smaller, thinner bones than men and many women don’t get the bone-building nutrients they need.
In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr Sunita Kapoor, Director and Consultant Pathologist at City X-ray and Scan Clinic, explained, “As women age, their estrogen levels also diminish, the essential hormone in females that protects bones. Estrogen decreases sharply when women reach menopause, which causes bone loss. All these factors leave them vulnerable to osteoporosis. This makes appropriate and effective bone health screening or tests a must for women.”
Talking about who may be at risk of low bone density, she revealed, “Women who have very low body weight, have had one or more fractures after the age of 50, have lost a half inch or more in height within one year, and have a family history of osteoporosis are more at risk of low bone density. Apart from that, lack of physical activity, smoking, heavy drinking and not getting enough calcium and Vitamin D in diet can also contribute to low bone density in women.”
She suggested a few tests or screening procedures that women should undergo to check their bone health:
- Bone density scan or DEXA scan
A bone density scan or DEXA scan uses low-dose X-rays to see how dense or strong your bones are. Other names for this test are bone mineral density test or BMD test, DXA, and Dual-energy x-ray. A woman should undergo this test at least once beginning at age 58 or even earlier, depending upon the risk factors for osteoporosis.
The test is also used to determine body fat and lean body mass and often plays an integral role in identifying and preventing osteoporosis. The diagnostic procedure helps diagnose how susceptible are your bones to fractures and injuries, by measuring the body’s fat percentage or your bone’s mineral density. A doctor may recommend the scan or test if you are at a higher risk of developing bone problems, such as osteoporosis.
A bone density scan is primarily used to diagnose osteopenia (low bone mass), and osteoporosis, predict the risk of future fractures and see if treatment for osteoporosis is working. Women aged 65 or older are at a high risk of losing bone density, which can lead to fractures, so they should have a bone density scan.
- Orthopedic Health Screening
An orthopedic health screening is recommended for women who have a family history of joint problems, arthritis, or osteoporosis. Usually, this screening involves checking the bones and joints for any abnormalities or signs of wear and tear. Bone densitometry, discography, skeletal scintigraphy, myelography, and electromyography are some common orthopedic tests. Most of these tests rely on proven technology, such as X-ray, DEXA MRI, ultrasound, and computed tomography.
Dr Sunita Kapoor concluded, “A DEXA scan is the most common and effective way to measure bone density in women. However, your healthcare provider may also order more tests to confirm a diagnosis or to find out if bone loss treatment is working. Ideally, all women over 50 should have a bone density scan to check for osteoporosis. Since prevention is better than cure, the best way to prevent the bones from weakening is to build stronger bones. Therefore, it is important to strengthen bones during childhood and adolescence, to prevent osteoporosis later in life.”