Elizabeth Salada, M.D.
Rancho Bernardo Integrative Medicine
I’m 53 and my friend says I should have my bones scanned. My bones don’t hurt, so why should have a bone density test done?
Answer: A baseline bone density test is the most effective way to determine whether or not you have osteoporosis or porous bone, which affects approximately 10 million Americans. Such fragility increases the risk of fractures, especially of the hip, spine and wrist, although any bone may be affected. All women should have a baseline bone density test at age 50. Younger women may need testing if they have early menopause for any reason, take certain medications that may cause bone loss, or have a history of unusual fractures or anorexia.
The most accurate test is the DEXA scan, which provides an x-ray of the hip joint and spine and will help determine your risk of fracture. The test should be repeated every five years if you have normal results and more often if significant bone loss is identified.
The key ingredients of maintaining bone mass are nutrition and exercise. Most women don’t consume sufficient calcium daily and, because of concerns about sun exposure, many have a deficient amount of vitamin D. It’s a good idea to check your vitamin D level as part of your next routine blood test. In addition to aiding with calcium absorption, vitamin D has been linked to mental well-being, muscle strength, restful sleep, memory retention and reduction of risk for certain cancers.
I recommend taking a vitamin that combines calcium (1,500 – 2,000 iu) and vitamin D (800 iu) daily. Gravity exercises – where your feet touch the ground – such as walking or running, tennis or dancing are most beneficial.
The Jean McLaughlin Women’s Center for Health and Healing offers DEXA scans. A physician’s order is required. For more information, or to make an appointment, call 858.613.6120.