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Look at an image of the inside of a healthy bone, and you’ll see a honeycomb-like design. Called the trabecular bone or spongy bone, the inside of healthy bone is slightly porous and alive; the body breaks it breaks it down and builds it up. This keeps our bones strong and dense.
As we age, this process can become imbalanced, decreasing our bones’ density. They become more porous and less sturdy—a condition called osteoporosis.
The “heart attack of the skeleton“
Those suffering with osteoporosis have a greater risk of breaking a bone, particularly during everyday activities. And they often find out they have it when they break a bone. That’s why it’s referred to as “the heart attack of the skeleton.”
“People might not know they have heart disease until they have a heart attack. Osteoporosis is like that,” says Dr. David Houserman, a resident orthopedic surgeon with Kettering Health. “It’s silent, and we might not know about it until the person suffers a fracture.”
Improving bone density
Osteoporosis affects many people; one in two women and one in four men live with it. Though it has numerous causes, diet and lifestyle pose the greatest risks as well as the best opportunities to avoid it.
“The good news is that there are many steps that everyone can take to help prevent this disease,” says Lauren Rode, a physician assistant. She recommends the following to improve your bone density or avoid fractures due to low bone density:
- Avoid smoking or stop smoking if you do smoke.
- Avoid drinking alcohol.
- Eat a diet rich in calcium and vitamin D.
- Exercise regularly with weights.
DEXA scans and osteoporosis
Osteoporosis is typically found during a screening, specifically a DEXA scan (dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry). Used to measure bone density, a DEXA scan is recommended every two years for women 65 years old or older and for men 70 and older.
“We diagnose fractures on a daily basis, so we have an excellent opportunity to screen patients for osteoporosis and connect them with the resources they need to help prevent future fractures,” says Rode. “Our goal is to help empower patients to make positive decisions about their bone health.”
Talk to your doctor about getting a DEXA scan or request an appointment to learn more about osteoporosis and DEXA scans.