Don’t Wait for a Fracture to Get Screened
Losing some bone density is a natural part of aging. But for millions of people with osteoporosis, or “porous bone,” their bones become so weakened that a minor fall or injury can result in a fracture, often in the hip or spine.
Although anyone can develop osteoporosis, postmenopausal women lose bone more rapidly due to the sharp drop in estrogen. In fact, it is estimated that one in two women over 50 will break a bone due to this bone-robbing disease.
Fortunately, there are actions you can take to prevent osteoporosis – and to build bone strength if you already have it. The first step is to assess your current condition by getting a bone density test.
Bone Health Services
Holland Hospital now offers Bone Health Services, along with a number of other services focused on women’s health, at its eastern location: the Holland Hospital Medical Building in Zeeland. Bone Health Services is designed to give you everything you need to understand osteoporosis and reduce your risk of fractures. Bone density tests – quick and painless low-radiation scans – are done on state-of-the-art DXA* machines by specially trained radiology technologists.
At the heart of the program is an in-depth assessment of each patient’s current condition and risk factors. This consultation can take up to 90 minutes – a small commitment of time considering the difference it can make in your future quality of life, notes nurse practitioner Anne McKay, MSN, who helped develop the Bone Health program.
“Osteoporosis is a silent disease, so you may not know you have it until you break a bone,” McKay says. “That’s why bone density screening and follow-up care are so important. We can help patients prevent potentially disabling fractures.”
If osteoporosis or osteopenia (low bone density) is detected, McKay works closely with her patients to develop a bone-building treatment plan, which may include:
The National Osteoporosis Foundation recommends that all women begin bone density testing at age 65, and men at age 70. Men and postmenopausal women with risk factors may need to get screened earlier. (See Risk Factors at left.)
McKay cautions that a heel scan, which Holland Hospital offers free of charge to women at age 65, can give preliminary information but should not replace the hospital’s more advanced bone density scan.
“If you’re 65 years old (or 70 for men), Medicare will cover a top-quality bone density test,” she notes. “In addition, you’ll get an experienced clinician who will talk with you about lifestyle and risk factors, and check for secondary conditions that can affect your bone health.”
Ann Coffey, 73, is glad she got a bone density test earlier this year. The Fennville resident had been tested years earlier and was taking a daily calcium supplement, so thought she was spared from her family history of osteoporosis. But when a routine lab test showed she had unusually high levels of calcium in her blood, her doctor advised her to make an appointment at Bone Health Services.
After a bone density scan and careful review of her risk factors, McKay found that Coffey’s “fracture score” (measures probability of breaking a bone) was five times higher than it should be. More tests revealed that her rapid bone deterioration was due to a rare parathyroid disorder that causes calcium to be leached out of bones. The problem was corrected, and Coffey is now reducing her risk for fractures through exercise and medication.
“I’m very aware of osteoporosis because my mother had it and broke her hip, but I didn’t have any idea that I had it,” Coffey says. “Anne [McKay] really delved into my problem and even contacted my family practitioner to discuss my health. It’s a great relief to know I can do something about it.”
To Make an Appointment
Talk to your doctor about a referral to Bone Health Services. To make an appointment, call (616) 748-5764. Bone Health Services is conveniently located at Holland Hospital’s Medical Building in Zeeland.
* DXA stands for dual energy x-ray absorptiometry, the most effective test for diagnosing osteoporosis.
Sources: The National Women’s Health Information Center, www.4woman.gov; The North American Menopause Society, www.menopause.org; and National Osteoporosis Foundation, www.nof.org.