How Bone Density Screenings Can Help Identify Early Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis – the thinning of bone tissue and loss of bone density over time – is a silent disease.

“Most people are unaware of their deteriorating bone health until they fracture a bone,” explains Jennifer Perkins, RN, coordinator of Memorial’s JointWorks, which oversees the care of more than 1,500 patients receiving hip or knee replacements each year.

Perkins says one out of two women are at risk for developing osteoporosis as well as one out of four men.

Bone loss typically occurs over many years, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. People have no symptoms or discomfort until a fracture develops.

One way to keep an eye on your bone health is to take advantage of a bone density screening to measure your bones’ strength. The screenings that Memorial provides at various health fairs use ultrasound on a person’s heel and can help identify people who may benefit from further testing, Perkins says.

The peripheral bone density screening takes a couple of minutes. They’re a good idea for any adult, even if they’re not at risk, because they can identify the need to discuss options with your physician if the test reveals you’re at a medium or high risk of getting a fracture.

Women and older adults are at greater risk for developing osteoporosis than men or younger adults, according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, which lists additional risk factors on its website.

And you can take steps to keep your bones healthy and reduce your chance to develop osteoporosis. Talk to your physicians about the best dosage of daily calcium and vitamin D in your diet. Stop smoking. Limit alcohol consumption; drinking more than two or three ounces a day can damage bone structure. Daily weight-bearing exercise and stretching helps to improve bone mass and strength and decreases the risk of falling.

Memorial’s JointWorks will offer free bone density screenings from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday during the open house for the new Gus and Flora Kerasotes YMCA at Iles Avenue and Archer Elevator Road. You can find the screenings in Memorial’s SportsCare, which will consolidate its sports medicine clinics as well as its rehabilitation and sports-enhancement programs into the new Y.