May is Osteoporosis Awareness Month. About 10 million Americans have osteoporosis and nearly 34 million more are at risk. It’s most common among older adults, especially women. Broken bones in older adults can lead to more severe health issues, loss of independence and increased risk of mortality.

Osteoporosis causes bones to become weak and brittle. Bone is living tissue and our body regularly breaks down old bone replacing it with new bone matter. That is, until our mid-30’s, when our bone loss is greater than what our body can replace. Since we can’t replace bone matter, it’s vital that we pay attention to our bone health, ensuring preventative measures are taken to avoid future falls and breaks. Getting plenty of calcium, vitamin D and exercise may help lower your risk of developing osteoporosis. Early detection is also important.

Island Health’s newest screening tool, the Hologic™ DXA machine, which was funded by the Island Hospital Foundation, features the latest technology to evaluate bone density. A bone density test can help anyone at risk of osteoporosis by evaluating the bone density in the hip, spine or other bones to determine the risk of developing osteoporosis. It’s a painless test, similar to an X-ray. Results are often reported as a T-score, which compares your bone density to that of a healthy young woman. A T-score of −2.5 or lower indicates osteoporosis. For those at risk, treatment options are available, including balance and fall prevention training with physical therapists to reduce the risk of broken bones.

During the early stages of bone loss there are often little to no symptoms, but there are several risk factors. The US Preventative Services Task Force recommends bone density screening for women over 65 or anyone with increased risk factors, including those who have the following:

  • Broken a bone after age 50
  • Family history of broken bones or osteoporosis
  • Early menopause
  • History of smoking
  • Lack of vitamin D and/or calcium

To schedule your quick and easy DXA bone density test, please call 360.299.1315. Medicare and most insurance plans cover bone density tests, when ordered by your physician. Talk to your provider if you have concerns about your bone density and risk of fractures.

Additionally, Island Health’s physical therapy and nutrition experts offer balance screenings and classes on osteoporosis, exercise and nutrition. During the balance screening, participants have the opportunity to meet one-on-one with a physical therapist to determine weak and vulnerable parts of the body. Therapists help patients develop strategies to prevent falls which could lead to possible bone breaks. During the osteoporosis class, a registered dietician and physical therapist review exercises that are most beneficial for good bone health and which foods help keep bones strong. Both programs are free of charge and open to the public. Classes and screenings are offered throughout the year. Call 360.299.1309 or visit islandhealth.org/classes for more information on Island Health’s classes and screenings.

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Published on May 26, 2022