According to the International Osteoporosis Foundation (IOF), osteoporosis and osteopenia affect more than half of adults over the age of 50 in the United States. The IOF points out that low bone density is a major health threat for US adults — particularly for the elderly population, since age is the single greatest risk factor for low bone density.
The most accurate way to diagnose low bone density is by means of a DEXA scan. A DEXA scan uses two low-energy x-ray beams which enable a doctor to separate an image into two components: bone and soft tissue. The results of a DEXA scan allow doctors to determine the severity of an individual’s bone loss as well as the best course of treatment for them.
Generally speaking, a DEXA scan will provide a T score which represents a person’s bone density. According to the World Health Organization, T-scores are divided into three categories:
- A T score of -1 or higher indicates that an individual has normal bone density.
- A T score between -1.1 and -2.4 indicates that an individual has osteopenia, low bone density.
- A T score of -2.5 or lower indicates that an individual has osteoporosis, severe low bone density.
Osteoporosis and, to a lesser degree, osteopenia, cause bones to become brittle and fragile, increasing the risk of a fracture or break. Fractured or broken bones are more serious in older people since the bones heal more slowly as people age. Further, in the event of a severe fracture or break, an individual might require surgery, which itself can be a danger to elderly people.
Osteoporosis and osteopenia are particularly dangerous in the elderly, since the most common way for an older person to lose their independence is through a fall.
While diminished bone density is a natural consequence of aging, eating a healthy diet, including foods rich in calcium and vitamin D, and getting proper exercise, can slow the effects of aging on bones.
It is extremely important for people over the age of 50 to have a DEXA scan in order to determine their bone density. As with most disorders, the earlier a diagnosis is provided, the more effectively the disorder can be treated. In the case of osteopenia, doctors can design a regimen that includes supplements, dietary changes, and perhaps an exercise program to help prevent or slow an individual’s progression from osteopenia to osteoporosis. Osteoporosis might require bone-building medication in addition to these lifestyle changes.
At the Regency Nursing and Rehabilitation Centers, we offer the very best of care for people with low bone density, as well as other medical conditions, in a patient-centered environment. This means always listening to our residents and patients and respecting their capabilities, while helping them to achieve maximum functionality and independence. And always maintaining the highest professional and quality standards in our staff and our facilities. Our 25 years of excellent care have led to us being awarded a Best Nursing Homes award by US News & World Today, a 5-Star rating by USA Today, and an A+ rating by the Better Business Bureau, among many other awards.
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