As adults reach their forties, it is important to conduct bone-density scanning regularly to guard against bone density loss, which can in turn lead to fractures and osteoporosis.
Numerous factors influence bone density loss, including age, nutrition, physical activity, and hormonal changes.
Postmenopausal women face heightened risks due to declining oestrogen levels, which play a crucial role in preserving bone density.
This loss of bone density stems from the gradual reduction of essential minerals like calcium and phosphorus within the bones.
If left untreated, bone density loss can eventually lead to osteoporosis, where bones become brittle and vulnerable to fractures, causing structural deterioration.
Osteoporosis is known as a "silent disease" because it develops gradually, often without noticeable symptoms, until a fracture occurs.
It can affect anyone, especially as they age, but postmenopausal women are particularly at higher risk due to the decline in oestrogen levels, which naturally play a protective role in maintaining bone density.
Visible symptoms of bone density loss include an increased vulnerability to fractures, even from minor impacts or trauma, affecting bones in the spine, hip, and wrist. Unexplained fractures may signal bone density issues, necessitating further investigation.
Low bone density can cause bone pain or tenderness, primarily in the spine, hips, or weight-bearing joints.
Bone density loss can lead to fractures resulting from minor falls or bumps, while gradual height reduction and a stooped or hunched posture may arise from the weakening of the spine's vertebrae, known as "dowager's hump."
Bone density scanning is a painless and non-invasive test that helps doctors check the health of your bones. It provides valuable information about your bone strength and can identify early signs of bone problems.
By knowing your bone health, you can take steps to keep your bones strong and prevent fractures in the future. This test is especially important for adults over 40, as it helps in early detection and personalised treatment plans, empowering you to take control of your bone health and enjoy an active and independent life.
To address bone density loss, preventive measures are essential. Consuming calcium-rich foods, sources of vitamin D, and engaging in weight-bearing exercises can enhance bone strength. Quitting harmful habits like smoking and excessive alcohol consumption also reduces the risk of bone weakness. For postmenopausal women, discussing hormone therapy options with a healthcare professional is beneficial. Early bone density testing, particularly for those at risk, facilitates timely preventive actions.
(Author is the head of Centre for Endocrinology and Diabetes, Amrita Hospital, Kochi)