I'm confused about bone density tests. A couple of my friends have had them, and now they are taking medicine to prevent osteoporosis. I don't like going to the doctor much, and I really object to a lot of unnecessary tests. I'm 68. Is this something I need to check into?
What you need to do, of course, is talk to your doctor about what tests you need. As you get older it is really important to establish a good relationship with a doctor--because chances are good that tests, illnesses and a gradual move toward frailty are in your future. Sorry about that.
Here's some information from the National Osteoporosis Foundation that may, however, answer some of your questions.
A bone mineral density test (BMD) is a non-invasive, painless test. It is the best way to determine your bone health. These can measure your hip, spine, wrist, finger, shin or heel. Your BMD is compared to that of a young (30-something) adult and also matched to norms for your age.
According to the Foundation, anyone 65 or over should have a screening test. You fit that category. Osteoporosis is a disease in which bone density decreases, and the bones become fragile and easily broken. Any bone can be affected, but of special concern are fractures of the hip and spine. A hip fracture almost always requires hospitalization and major surgery. It can impair a person's ability to walk unassisted and may cause prolonged or permanent disability.
To prevent osteoporosis, the Foundation offers these five steps:
No matter your age, get your daily recommended amounts of calcium and vitamin D. That's between 1000 and 1300 mg of calcium each day, from food or supplements, and between 400 and 800 IU per day of iron.
Engage in regular weight-bearing exercises. Walk, dance, climb stairs--and, yes, check with your doctor before you begin an exercise program.
Avoid smoking and excessive alcohol.
Talk to your doctor about bone health.
Have a bone density test and take medication when appropriate.
For more information contact your doctor. Or, check out the National Osteoporosis Foundation by phone 202-223-2226 or on the internet at www.nof.org.