Osteoporosis: The Silent Disease that Affects Nearly Half of American Women Osteoporosis means “porous bone.” It is a bone disease that occurs when the body loses too much bone, makes too little bone, or a combination of both. When this happens, bones become weak and may break from a fall, or in more serious cases, from a simple bump or sneeze. Osteoporosis is known as a silent disease, which can lead to serious injury and chronic pain, and most people don’t even know they have it. While osteoporosis affects both women and men, women are significantly more likely to be diagnosed with the disease. It is estimated that about 50% of women over 50 will break a bone due to osteoporosis and about 25% of men will break a bone due to osteoporosis.
Women begin losing bone density in the late 30s and 40s. After menopause, bone density loss speeds up due to hormonal changes – up to 20% of bone mass can be lost in the 5 to 7 years following menopause – making women more at risk for fractures to the spine, hips and wrists.
Osteoporosis rarely shows symptoms until a lot of bone mass has been lost. The most visible symptoms may be loss of height and curvature of the upper spine and back area. Nearly 22 million Americans are afflicted with osteoporosis…80% of whom are women. The key to staying ahead of bone loss is knowing your risk factors:
Osteoporosis Risk Factors
According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, the following factors put you at higher risk for developing osteoporosis. Talk to your doctor about getting a bone density test if you have one or more of the following risk factors:
• Over age 50
• Menopausal or post-menopausal
• Family history of osteoporosis
• Small stature
• Previous broken bones or height loss
• Not eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, calcium and vitamin D
• Inactive lifestyle
• Excessive alcohol use
Bone density screening is a safe and painless exam where people who have osteoporosis or are at risk for developing it, can be diagnosed before they suffer a broken bone.
Screening for Osteoporosis
Dual energy x-ray absorptiometry, also known as a DEXA scan, is the preferred method for diagnosing osteoporosis or osteopenia, which means low bone density and is a pre-curser to osteoporosis. During a DEXA scan, you’ll lie on a table while a scanner passes over your body. You may need to hold your breath for a few seconds. This exam takes only about 15 minutes to complete and can help you and your doctor know if you have osteoporosis or if you may be at risk for it.
Insurance Coverage Most insurance plans, including Medicare, cover bone density tests if you have one or more risk factors. Contact your insurance carrier to check what’s covered under your specific plan. Most insurance policies will also cover a repeat scan every two years.
Schedule Your Bone Density Screening with Association of Alexandria Radiologists Our bone density tests are conducted by certified bone densitometry technologists and interpreted by board certified radiologists. Bone density scans are offered at our Alexandria and Woodbridge imaging centers, Inova Alexandria Hospital, Inova Springfield Healthplex, Inova Mount Vernon Hospital, Inova Imaging Mark Center and Inova Lorton Healthplex.