Osteoporosis is a prevalent disease among women over 50. In fact, 80 per cent of people with osteoporosis are women. Osteoporosis is a disease in which the density of the bone decreases and becomes porous. When there are more pores in the bone, it is less structurally sound. Estrogen is a key hormone in promoting bone strength. So, when we lose estrogen during menopause, our bones suffer.
Perhaps your doctor has warned you about the impending bone density loss or you’ve noticed the change yourself. To confirm if you have lost bone density or have osteoporosis, you need a bone density scan.
The question is, when?
What is a Bone Density Scan?
A bone density scan is a test to see how much calcium and other minerals are present in your bones. The most common bone density test is called a DEXA scan. It uses an x-ray with low levels of radiation to assess your bones.
Although it scans your whole skeleton, they usually pay extra attention to your hips, forearms, and spine. These are the most common bones to break when you have osteoporosis.
The DEXA bone density scan is painless and easy.
Assessing your bone density is especially important for women. Estrogen is a hormone that protects your bones and helps maintain bone strength. When you enter menopause and experience a decrease in estrogen levels, your bones are more at risk.
Before, During, or After Menopause?
So, when should you get a bone density scan? Should you wait until you’ve entered menopause?
There are benefits to getting a scan during each of those times, before, during, and after menopause. When you get one before menopause has started, you create a benchmark of your bones’ health. You can see if you already have symptoms of bone loss and osteoporosis before your estrogen has begun to decrease.
During menopause, it’s important to track any loss of bone density. Through this scan, your doctor can predict which bones are most likely to fracture due to decreased minerals. If they notice bone density loss, your doctor may suggest retaking the test every couple of years as well as treatment for osteoporosis.
When you’ve finished menopause, it can be helpful to see how much bone density you’ve lost, if any. It’s common for seniors to have low bone density due to their age. It makes them more prone to slips, falls, and loss of balance resulting in bone fractures.
How to Prevent Bone Density Loss During Menopause
During menopause and after, there are things you can do to prevent further bone density loss. They include:
- Quitting smoking and reducing alcohol consumption
- Maintaining a healthy weight
Your doctor may also recommend you get extra calcium in your diet through food or supplements. Foods that are high in calcium include milk, cheese, leafy greens, and beans.
They might prescribe a vitamin D and calcium supplement if your diet doesn’t provide enough of those nutrients. Always follow your doctor’s recommended dose for supplements and medications.