As we age our bones naturally thin and we become at risk of osteoporosis. This concerns us because it leads to a higher risk of fractures when we fall. There is a national programme in place to screen people who are at risk of this condition using a special scan which measures the thickness of your bones-a bone density scan. If we know we are at risk of this, we can start taking measures to delay or improve bone thinning.
What is osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is the name of the condition when bones have become fragile to the point that they can easily break. This happens because as we age, bones lose minerals such as calcium more quickly than the body can replace them. This leads to loss of bone thickness (also called bone mass or density).
When to suspect osteoporosis
- If you have a fracture after a minor fall
- If you lose height as you get older
Everyone over the age of 70 is encouraged to have a b one density scan to identify people with or at risk of osteoporosis before they have a fracture.
What is low bone density (osteopenia)?
If your bones are thinner than normal but not thin enough to be called osteoporosis you are diagnosed as having osteopenia. If you are told you have this, you will be asked to take calcium and vitamin D and be advised to undertake weight bearing exercise. Exercise physiologists can also take you through targeted exercise programmes to promote bone health. Your doctor will screen you for any other factors which may be contributing to lower bone density and may also recommend smoking cessation programmes and a reduction in alcohol if needed
What is a bone density test?
A bone density test is a simple scan that measures the density of your bones (usually at the hip and spine). The scan is like having an X-Ray. It takes a quick survey of your bones and has a lower dose of radiation than a standard X-Ray. The results of this test show if your bones are in the range of normal, low bone density (osteopenia) or osteoporosis. It can also help to determine if your current medication is working.
Medicare rebates apply for many (but not all) scans.
Management of bone health
There are a number of management options including a combination of medication, exercise, diet and more. Please discuss the options that will be best for you with your Integriti GP.
Choosing the Right Osteoporosis Medication - There are many things to think about when choosing the right osteoporosis medicine. You and your Integriti GP may consider:
Your age. Lifestyle management alone may be used for younger women, or those with osteopenia. Most women will be advised to use calcium and vitamin D supplements. If you have osteoporosis at any age, certain medications will be recommended.
The stage of the condition. Medications will usually be tailored to what you need and when you need it. Certain medications will only be used if you have developed osteoporosis and not if you have osteopenia (early bone thinning).
Your overall health. Your Integriti GP will consider other health problems you have when recommending a medicine. For example, if you have had breast cancer or blood clots, you should not take oestrogen. Or if your bones have been exposed to radiation treatment, you should not take certain drugs.
Your personal preferences. How do you want to take your medication and how often can you commit to taking it? These are questions that will be important when you sit down with your Integriti doctor and create a plan personalised to your needs.
Calcium and Vitamin D - Calcium and vitamin D are essential for building strong, dense bones when you are young and to keeping them strong and healthy as you age. Integriti GP’s have links to qualified Dietitians and Nutritionists who can support your diet choices for good bone health.
Exercise - There are two types of exercises that are important for building and maintaining bone density: weight-bearing and muscle-strengthening exercises. Integriti GP’s have links to qualified physiotherapists, exercise physiologists and personal trainers who can support your exercise.
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