Bone density risks can be assessed to avoid breaks

A woman receives a DEXA bone density scan.

Osteoporosis, the disease where bones weaken and become fragile with increased risk of fracture, affects many seniors, resulting in broken bones.

There is a way to prevent such fractures.

“Anyone should be able to fall from a full standing height and not break bone,” said Claire Gill, the CEO of the National Osteoporosis Foundation. “If you are over the age of 50 and break a bone, you should get a bone density test. Any woman over age 65 and any man over age 70 should have a bone density test that is included in the Medicare package.”

Osteoporosis is hereditary, Gill said, so if you know grandparents had broken bones, you should be checked as well. DEXA is the bone density test.

“The body is constantly changing and creating new cells,” said William Romaniello, the director of sports medicine and marketing for an orthopedic medical group. “When the body can no longer produce enough new bone cells to replace old cells, you get osteoporosis. Having a good diet, staying active and maintaining a good level of vitamin D and calcium are also helpful. Keep weight down and not smoking are great ways to help prevent osteoporosis.”

Women tend to be at higher risk as they lose bone mass after menopause, having lowered estrogen. Asian women are smaller framed and may be lactose intolerant so are more susceptible to the disease, but all races and ethnicities need to be checked for bone health. Men go through bone loss later than women.

“Things you can control are not smoking and not drinking too much,” Gill said. “We need to be active on our feet to strengthen muscle and bone building with exercises like hiking and walking — weight-bearing exercises. You really need to be on your feet to strengthen bones. Good treatments can prevent fractures up to 70 percent. Half of all women after age 50 will break a bone due to osteoporosis. Pay attention to it and take care of it because we want to live independent and mobile lives.”