What is a DEXA Scan?

Dexa Bone Density Scan of the spine and hip are the “gold standard” for diagnosing osteoporosis and monitoring bone density changes over time. Low bone density will put you at risk of easy fractures. However, low bone density is almost completely reversible when detected early!

What is osteoporosis?

  • “Osteoporosis” means “porous bones.”
  • This is a condition that causes bones to become weak and brittle, leading to fractures.
  • This condition can cause pain, difficulty breathing, a loss of independence and even death when complications occur from some fractures.
  • Osteoporosis is a major public health threat for Americans 50 years of age and older.
  • In the United States, ten million individuals are estimated to already have the disease.
  • 34 million more Americans are estimated to have low bone mass, placing them at increased risk for osteoporosis.
  • One in four are men.
  • Half of all women will develop osteoporosis over the course of their lifetime.

What are the risk factors for osteoporosis?

  • Small, thin frame
  • Family history of osteoporosis
  • History of taking steroids or cortisone
  • History of smoking
  • History of drinking alcohol
  • History of thyroid disease
  • Restricted exercise
  • Have abnormal blood sugars or are diabetic

How would I know if I have osteoporosis?

The only sure way to find out if you have osteoporosis or low bone density that puts you at risk for osteoporosis (osteopenia), is to have a bone mass measurement.

The Federal Drug Administration’s (FDA) approved method for diagnosing osteoporosis is the DXA or DEXA (dual energy X-ray absorptiometry), which measures bone density at the spine, hip or total body. Other methods that measure bone density at peripheral sites, such as the heel, wrist or finger are usually inexpensive and quick, but are considered screening methods that may indicate if you are at high, moderate or low risk for osteoporosis. Those who have been screened and are at moderate or high risk should then have a DEXA test to make a final diagnosis. All of the methods to test bone density are painless, noninvasive and safe, and are becoming increasingly available. Medicare covers the cost of having a DEXA test once every two years.

How can I protect myself from osteoporosis?

  • Get enough calcium throughout life.
  • Children 5 to 10 years of age need 800 to 1,200 milligrams (mg) of calcium every day.
  • Teens need 1,200 to 1,500 mg per day.

Women and men, 25 to 50 years of age should have 1,000 mg of calcium each day, while women near or past menopause should have 1,200 mg of calcium daily if they are taking estrogen replacement therapy; otherwise, 1,500 mg per day is recommended. Women older than age 65 years of age should have 1,500 mg per day. Make foods that are high in calcium part of your diet, including low-fat dairy products such as milk, yogurt and cheese; canned fish with bones, such as salmon and sardines; and dark-green leafy vegetables, such as kale, collard and broccoli. If you do not get enough calcium from your food, you might think about taking a calcium supplement. (Always check with your doctor before taking any dietary supplement.)

In addition, your body needs vitamin D to absorb calcium. An intake of 400 to 800 I.U. (I.U. is the standard measurement listed on any bottle of vitamins) is recommended per day; however, scientists are continuing to study Vitamin D to determine the optimal daily dose.

Maintaining a healthy weight and being physically active at least 30 minutes a day for adults or 60 minutes for children can help decrease one’s risk for developing osteoporosis. Weight-bearing and resistance exercises build bone and muscle strength and help prevent bone loss, as well as improve coordination to prevent falls. Walking, jogging and playing tennis are all good weight-bearing exercises to build bone mass in the lower torso and extremities. Resistance exercises, including lifting weights, build bone mass in the upper torso and extremities. Always check with your doctor before starting an exercise program.

How is osteoporosis treated?

Under Federal Drug Administration (FDA) guidelines, drugs to treat osteoporosis have been shown to preserve or increase bone mass and maintain bone quality in order to reduce the risk of fractures.

Where can I get more information regarding Osteoporosis?

National Osteoporosis Foundation

The National Women’s Health Information Center, Office on Women’s Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

How can I schedule an appointment?

Talk to your Family Health Care provider to schedule your appointment at our Indian Hills location.


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