Osteoporosis Care at St. Vincent's HealthCare
Osteoporosis is a silent disease that causes bones to become weak, thin, and brittle, causing them to break easily. It is the leading cause of hip and spinal fractures among older adults and is four times more common in women. It is sometimes called "the silent disease" because you may not notice any symptoms until you fracture or break a bone.
St. Vincent’s HealthCare offers bone density exams to detect osteoporosis with state-of-the-art diagnostic equipment and educational resources in an environment designed specifically for women. However, we recognize that sometimes men need our services and care. As such, the staff of highly trained experts works as a team to provide comfortable and comprehensive healthcare to anyone seeking diagnosis and treatment for osteoporosis.
Talk with your doctor about the benefits of bone densitometry. While several methods are available to measure bone density, the most widely used technique currently is DEXA (Dual Energy X-ray Absorptiometry). St. Vincent's HealthCare offers this quick, simple test to measure bone mass and diagnosis osteoporosis.
The DEXA scan is completely painless, and you will not have to make any special preparations except to avoid calcium supplements for 24 hours before the test. You will simply lie still on a special table while the x-ray unit passes over you. It is a very low dose of radiation. If you have had any x-rays using contrast, such as barium, or any nuclear medicine studies, please wait one week before having a DEXA scan.
St. Vincent's HealthCare will send your test results to your doctor for follow up. Most insurance companies cover the cost, but it is always good to check with your individual carrier.
While some risk factors, like gender, are completely outside of your control, you can manage others.
Risk Factors That You Cannot Control
- Gender. Women are four times more likely to develop osteoporosis than men. When women go through menopause (whether surgical or natural), their ovaries do not produce as much estrogen. Since estrogen is important to maintaining bone density, women are at increased risk for developing osteoporosis.
- Race. Caucasians and Asians are more likely to develop osteoporosis. White women experience fractures two to three times more often than women of color.
- Family History. Having a blood relative with osteoporosis increases your risk.
- Body Type. Small-boned or slight-built women have less overall bone mass to begin with and are thereby at increased risk for developing brittle bones.
- Age. The risk of developing osteoporosis increases with age.
- Health Problems. Certain hormonal disorders can result in bone loss and some medications, such as long-term use of steroids and high doses of thyroid medication, may weaken your bones. Please discuss any concerns you have with your doctor and do not stop taking any medications unless directed to do so.
Risk Factors You Can Control
- Cigarette Smoking. Do not smoke. Smoking affects overall bone development.
- Nutrition and Dietary Factors. Good nutrition is an important part of treating and preventing osteoporosis. Getting enough calcium is vital because calcium is responsible for keeping your bones strong and helping the muscles work properly. Inadequate calcium in the diet will also cause your body to have to "steal" calcium from the bones. Therefore, eat a diet rich in calcium and vitamin D.
- Caffeine and Alcohol. Excessive caffeine (more than 5 servings a day) or alcohol (more than 2-3 ounces daily) can negatively affect bone development.
- Exercise. Exercise builds bone mass and strengthens bones. It can also minimize the effects of osteoporosis on your posture. Perform weight bearing exercise (any activity that works your bones and muscles against gravity). Under your doctor’s guidance, begin a regular exercise program.