Osteoporosis can be a scary diagnosis for any woman. It used to be the beginning of a regimen of lifelong medication, such as a bisphosphonate, that is designed to slow the disease’s progression. These days, more women are deciding to take matters into their own hands. Attempting to reduce the rate of bone loss — or even reversing osteoporosis —involves making lifestyle changes or tweaking those you already take part in.
If your doctor thinks you are at serious risk for a fracture or have the risk factors for significant bone loss, they might order a DEXA scan. Your doctor might refer to a DEXA scan by another name, such as a bone densitometry scan, a central DEXA scan, or a DXA scan. A DEXA scan is also appropriate for women who are aged 65 and older. It could also be ordered if your care plan changes and you start taking a medication that’s known to cause bone loss, for example, or if you had a recent fracture.
A DEXA Scan is a non-invasive and painless test that focuses on the bone density of two primary areas — your spine and your hips. The dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DEXA) scan takes about 10 to 20 minutes. During this procedure, you’ll be on an open X-ray table. To ensure that the test is accurate, try to be as still as possible. The scanner produces one high-energy beam and one low-energy beam. Because these beams measure the number of X-rays that pass through your bones, your doctor can use them to determine the density of your bones.
The results produced are called your T-score. They are based on how your bone density compares to that of a healthy 30-year-old; this variable is used because that’s the age when bones are typically the strongest.
A T-score of:
According to a study published in the Journal of American Medical Association, these scores matter because the lower the T-score a woman has, the higher her chance of fracturing a hip. The study, published in 2001, found that a woman had a 16 percent chance of a hip fracture with a T-score of -1, and that jumps to 27 percent when the score falls to -2, and there is a 33 percent chance with a -2.5 score.
In some cases, you might also receive a Z score after a DEXA scan. This number compares your bone density to that of a normal score for someone of the same age and body size.
There are many things you can do to set yourself up for stronger bones. The following are some ideas that the women in the PrimeWomen community have been doing to prevent further bone loss and rebuild bone.
Your diet is a good place to start when making changes that support stronger bones. The two components you want to be especially aware of are your calcium intake and your vitamin D intake. While adding foods that are high in these elements to your diet might seem like a no-brainer, taking a supplement could also be a good idea. This is especially true if you don’t eat dairy and/or aren’t out in the sun very much.
It’s important to know that eating animal protein could leach the calcium from your bones. This is because the amino acids in these types of proteins tend to be high in sulfur which is then converted to sulfate. Sulfate acidifies the blood, and the process causes bones to dissolve into your bloodstream.
Smoking has also been shown to lead to calcium loss, so this is yet another good reason to stop the habit. The same has been found when it comes to drinking a lot of alcohol. While having an occasional glass of wine might not be detrimental to your bone health, it’s best to discuss your drinking habits with your physician to get an accurate idea of its effects on their density.
If you’re already exercising regularly, try adding more weight-bearing exercises to your routine. While lifting weights is one method, other ideas include jogging, skipping rope, climbing stairs, skiing, running, and even walking. Be sure to include strength training exercises. Doing so will help strengthen and build your bones and muscles.
OsteoStrong is a 60-second session that uses robotic musculoskeletal treatment devices to compress your skeletal system, mimicking the effects of hours of exercise. Painless, sweat-free, and quick, it’s a treatment designed to improve your bones’ health.
Some women prefer to take supplements in case they aren’t getting the necessary elements from their diet. Others simply find that it saves time to add a supplement to their daily routine. There are a number of posters in the PrimeWomen community who swear by the following supplements:
Created by Dr. Susan Brown, who designed the Better Bones, Better Body program, this supplement is a one-stop-shop for women who want to improve their bone health. With 120 capsules and packing many necessary elements including manganese, zinc, calcium, vitamin D, magnesium, boron and vitamin K, this supplement was formulated to provide the amounts you need to boost the absorption of calcium and support bone growth.
AlgaeCal is a plant-based formula that was created to increase the strength of your bones naturally. Made of all-natural ingredients that are highly absorbable, AlgaeCal is an organic source of calcium that also contains boron, magnesium, and vitamin K2 + D3. The 120 non-constipating veggie capsules go straight to your bones, staying out of the soft tissues.
Note: As pointed out in our article, IS THERE A MAGIC POTION FOR A HEALTHY BRAIN?, supplements will not fix the problem. Diet and exercise are still necessary. This only helps with the vitamins and minerals your body needs more of but isn’t getting naturally.
Is actually reversing osteoporosis realistic? Probably not. But can you improve your DEXA scores? Yes. Slow it down, build strength, and prevent fractures? Yes. In some cases, the lifestyle changes noted above are not enough because of the amount of bone loss that has already occurred. Some medications can help rebuild bone and slow the loss of your current bone density. But the side effects of these oral medications — which can include indigestion, headaches, esophageal inflammation, and pain — can be unpleasant. While treatments like bisphosphonate infusions and surgery might be more invasive than you desire, they might be necessary if none of the other options work for you.
Taking the above steps could help your next DEXA scan deliver good news. Best of all, these suggestions can improve your health in general as well. You’ll look and feel better just by taking care of your bones.
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