Riverview Physicians for Women

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439 Jennick Drive, Colonial Heights, Virginia 23834 View Location

Osteoporosis

Our bones are constantly being remodeled. Remodeling is the process by which old bone is removed and new bone is laid down. As we age, the process by which the bone is removed remains fairly constant while the process by which new bone is made slows down. Osteoporosis occurs when this process has resulted in a loss of bone density which is 2.5 standard deviations less than that measured in healthy young women. Osteoporosis has no symptoms until a fracture occurs which is why testing for osteoporosis is so important. Women should be tested at menopause because osteoporosis affects women to a greater degree than men (80% of Americans with osteoporosis are women). Women tend to have smaller, more slender bones and a marked decrease in estrogen levels in menopause resulting in rapid loss of calcium from bones. Within seven years of menopause, women can lose up to 20% of their bone density. Half of women over 50 will suffer an osteoporotic fracture. A spine (vertebral) fracture indicates a 5 fold increased risk of a subsequent hip fracture. Women worry a great deal about breast cancer, yet, the risk of osteoporotic hip fracture is greater than the combined risk of breast, ovarian and uterine cancer.

There are other risks for osteoporosis besides menopause. Some of these risks are:

  • Low body weight, being small and thin
  • Previous broken bone as an adult
  • Frequent falls
  • A family history of hip fractures
  • Cigarette smoking
  • Inactive lifestyle
  • Low calcium intake (you need 1200mg of calcium a day from all sources)
  • Low vitamin D level (premenopausal women need 400U of Vitamin D a day while post menopausal women need 800-1000U a day)
  • Certain medications (talk with your doctor about your medications and increased risk of osteoporosis)
  • Drinking more than 2 alcoholic drinks per day
  • Certain medical conditions (talk to your doctor about your medical history)

The only test for osteoporosis is a central DXA (dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry), which uses X-rays to measure the density of the lumbar spine and one hip (or non dominant forearm if unable to measure the spine or the hip). All of our DXA scans are performed by the same ISCD certified technician in order to maintain accurate, standardized results so that accurate serial measurements are made. This is important when comparing your scans in order to determine if treatment is effective. We put you first by being one of the few sites that measures both hips on every scan, even though the ISCD does not require it, because we think it is the right thing to do as there is no way to predict which is the weaker hip and if a patient should break the hip being measured and followed, there is no data available for the opposite hip to help manage treatment. This is done at no increase in cost to our patients or their insurance.

More information is available from the National Osteoporosis Foundation and The International Society For Clinical Densitometry.