Delaying Repeat Bone Screening Is Okay for Some Postmenopausal Women

Contributed by Ruchi Bhabhra, MD, PhD                                                                                                                                    BoneScreening

The National Osteoporosis Foundation has always recommended that all women over age 65 and post-menopausal women with at least one risk factor for osteoporosis undergo a bone density test. Now, new analysis using data from the Women’s Health Initiative says this test can be delayed in younger postmenopausal women, age between 50-64 years.

Researchers report in an article published in Menopause that the risk of osteoporotic bone fracture (hip, vertebrae, wrist or arm) is low enough in women aged 50 to 64 years with normal bone mineral density (BMD) that they can safely delay a repeat test for up to 10 years. Researchers found that there was no benefit in frequent re-screening with DXA scans for women less the 65 years old and without a history of osteoporosis.

Osteoporosis and Menopause

Osteoporosis is a disease of the bones. It can affect all bones in the body, making them weak. Unfortunately for women, there are several risk factors that raise your chances of developing osteoporosis. Some factors you can control such as smoking, alcohol use, lack of exercise. Some you can’t control such as being female, aging, menopause and a family history. Out of the uncontrollable risk factors, menopause is the biggest risk factor for developing osteoporosis because of hormonal changes that disrupt your body’s natural bone building process. During menopause, you lose estrogen, which helps preserve calcium in the body and prevent bone breakdown. Once estrogen loss and the aging process begins, our bones slowly breakdown.

Preserve Your Bone Density

You can do a lot to preserve your bone density – and even increase it – in the years leading up to menopause, during and following it just by taking control of the risk factors. I highly recommend the following to help:

Add nutrients. When estrogen levels decline so does your vitamin K, which is essential to bone health and vitamin D, which helps absorb calcium. Make sure you’re getting enough calcium, vitamin D & vitamin K to ensure you keep your bones as healthy as possible. You can add vitamin K & vitamin D to your diet by eating plenty of fruits and vegetables and at least 2-3 servings of dairy everyday. You may also buy over-the-counter vitamin supplements to help with maintaining healthy bones.

Exercise. Exercise can help you regain bone by building muscle. Even if you’ve already begun or went through menopause, you can still add BMD with weight bearing exercises. Walking, swimming and biking are great forms of exercise to build muscle. Yoga and Pilates also help build muscle and BMD, just not as fast as other forms of exercise.

Reduce physical and emotional stress.  When a woman goes through menopause, her body undergoes a lot of physical and emotional stress. When we stress, we release cortisol, which weakens our bones if enough of it is released over time. I recommend that that you find ways to relax such as yoga, Pilates, tai chi, acupuncture, massage therapy, or reflexology. We offer all of these Integrative Medicine services and more right here at the Women’s Center. Visit uchealth.com/women for more information.

No smoking. Smoking can increase your risk for osteoporosis so you can help your bones by avoiding smoking.

Bone Density Screening

There are tests available to determine bone density and how strong or fragile your bones are. One of the more common tests is called a dual-energy absorptiometry – more commonly known as – DXA scan. A DXA scan takes X-rays of your bones and gives you a score based on your age, gender, weight, and ethnic or racial origin. Bone density screenings are painless and take very little time to complete.

Since bone density varies from women to women, it’s important to talk to your doctor about your bone health and when it’s appropriate for you to have a bone density test. You may also take our osteoporosis risk assessment for women featured in our UC Health library. The assessment will help tell you your risk for developing the disease but I encourage you to still talk to your doctor about any concerns you may have. And remember; don’t wait for a problem to make bone health a priority!

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