A bone density scan is a quick, painless, and noninvasive way to measure the strength of your bones. The test, called a DEXA scan, is a kind of x-ray. A bone density scan can help your doctor diagnose osteoporosis and prevent fractures. Your doctor will generally recommend a bone density scan if you are 65 or older, or younger if you have a high risk of serious bone loss.
How do I know if a bone density scan is right for me?
What are the risk factors for bone loss? Here are a few factors that may encourage your doctor to order a bone density scan before the age of 65:
- Fracturing a bone in a minor accident
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Having a parent who broke a hip
- Heavy drinking
- Low body weight
Having a disorder associated with osteoporosis
Talk to your doctor if you think you might be at a higher risk for bone loss. Getting a bone density scan early can help prevent future complications from bone loss.
How can I protect my bones now?
The great news is that there are simple, everyday steps you can take to protect your bones and even strengthen them. Here are some of the best ways to maintain and protect healthy bones:
- Exercise. Weight-bearing exercise, such as walking and running, is excellent for strengthening and building bone. Aim for at least 30 minutes of weight-bearing exercise each day.
- Get enough calcium and vitamin D. At least 1,200 mg of calcium a day is optimal. You can take a calcium supplement, or make sure your diet is rich in high-calcium foods like dairy products and leafy greens. Getting a (moderate) amount of sunshine every day will help maximize your body’s natural vitamin D production.
- Stop smoking and only enjoy alcohol in moderation.
Is a bone density scan uncomfortable?
Not at all! A bone density scan is a kind of x-ray. It is completely painless and noninvasive, and it will be completed in a few minutes. Talk to your doctor today about whether a bone density scan is right for you in this phase of life.