Updates from Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital and Hospital Foundation
Of the many health related things we track, protecting our bones is probably not at the top of the list. However, bones play many essential roles in the body. Their primary function is to provide structure, but they also protect organs, anchor muscles, and store calcium. We all grew up being told it’s important to build strong and healthy bones, but what does that actually mean?
One of them most familiar terms related to bone health is osteoporosis, which literally means porous bone. Osteoporosis is a disease in which the density and quality of bone is reduced. As bones become more porous and fragile, the risk of fracture is greatly increased. The loss of bone occurs silently and progressively. Often there are no symptoms until the first fracture occurs.
Most people don’t realize bones are living tissue and constantly change. From birth on, bones are developing and strengthening. As new bone is made, old bones break down. Most people reach peak bone mass around age 30. After that you lose slightly more bone mass than you gain.
Many factors can affect bone health. A diet low in calcium contributes to diminished bone density, bone loss, and risk of fractures. People that are inactive have a higher risk of osteoporosis than do their active counterparts. Tobacco and alcohol use can weaken bones.
Women are at greater risk as are extremely thin people with a body mass of 19 or less or have a small frame. It is no surprise that as you age, bones become thinner and weaker. Heredity and family history also play a role in osteoporosis.
So what can you do to protect your bone health? A bone density test is a non-invasive test that uses low-dose x-rays to measure how many grams of calcium and other minerals are packed into a segment of bone. The bones that are most commonly tested are in the spine, hip and sometimes the forearm.
Bone density testing can identify decreases in bone density before you break a bone, determine your risk of broken bones, confirm a diagnosis of osteoporosis, and monitor the progression of osteoporosis based upon treatment.
The higher the mineral content is in the bone, the denser the bones are. Dense bones are stronger and less likely to break. Although osteoporosis is more common in older women, men also can develop the condition. Regardless of your sex or age, your doctor may recommend a bone density test if you’ve lost weight or fractured a bone. Some physicians will recommend a bone density test if you’ve been on certain medications for a long period of time or have had a drop in hormones.
The Diagnostic Imaging Center at Dignity Health Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital has bone density equipment. A great way to keep on top of your bone health is to get an initial bone density test in your 40s or early 50s that can serve as a baseline for comparison in future tests as you age.
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