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When Should I Get A Bone Density Test? Detecting and Treating Osteoporosis

with Matthew Goldman, MD

Orthopaedic Surgeon

Osteoporosis is a condition that often flies under the radar—untreated and undetected—until the day a bone fractures. It’s a disease that causes progressive bone loss and weakened bone quality. Your bones are constantly breaking down and being rebuilt. When bone loss happens faster than its renewal, that’s osteoporosis.

As a common condition that older adults face, osteoporosis affects 44 million Americans, contributing to 2 million bone fractures every year. (American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons). Some might have a shortfall off the bed and break two ribs because their bones are weaker due to osteoporosis. Others may experience back pain because there are cracks in their vertebrae. Some older adults break their hips, which can lead to significant disability. In serious cases, bones may even fracture from a movement as slight as a sneeze.

Dr. Matthew Goldman, an orthopaedic surgeon and an expert on osteoporosis at Baldwin Bone and Joint, advises women over the age of 50 to get a bone density test every two years and everyone over the age of 65 to be checked every year.

“Osteoporosis is a common issue that not many people pay attention to. As people age, some of the things that protect bone health, such as estrogen for women, decrease. That bone protection subsides and bones get fragile,” Dr. Goldman said. “Unfortunately, the condition is usually not discovered until a bone fracture happens. It really should be part of a routine maintenance exam.”

How can I prevent and treat osteoporosis?

Dr. Goldman recommends including enough Calcium and Vitamin D in your regular diet and taking supplements if necessary. From the moment you are born to young adulthood, your body needs calcium to build strong and healthy bones. Even as you get older, your body continually needs calcium to keep your bones healthy because it is losing calcium every day through normal bodily processes.

Fortunately, calcium is not hard to find in the typical American diet. Dairy products such as milk, yogurt, and cheese are excellent sources of calcium as well as certain green vegetables, according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation. Vitamin D, meanwhile, fulfills the important function of helping your body absorb calcium, and can often be found in fortified dairy products or supplements.

What about medications for osteoporosis treatment? The first-line medication that Dr. Goldman prescribes to osteoporosis patients is Fosamax (Alendronate), which works by slowing down the process of bones breaking down. “For people that can’t tolerate oral medications—because of an upset stomach or other side effects—we would switch to injectable medication such as Prolia for osteoporosis treatment,” Dr. Goldman said.

Whether it’s diet, exercise, weight management, or medications, there are many ways to maintain healthy bones to either prevent the onset of osteoporosis or slow its progression. Patients who are getting a routine bone density test are taking the right steps to detect this “silent” disease and get effective treatment—before they fracture a bone.

To schedule an appointment with Dr. Matthew Goldman or another expert on osteoporosis at Baldwin Bone and Joint, call (251) 625-2663.