Due to spine issues that affect my balance, I have fallen several times over the past 10 years. The details are too nasty to go into, but the last incident involved spilled blood and a brain scan (milkshakes and soups were my diet for about two weeks).
Thankfully, I never fractured a bone during any of these falls and gave myself a pat on the back for great bone health — that was until I had a DXA bone densitometry, or a bone density test as it’s commonly called, after my last fall. I am now considered to have osteopenia, a precursor to osteoporosis, and am at moderate risk for fracture due to a low bone density score in my left and right femur necks, which are located in the hip sockets.
As women enter menopause, estrogen and progesterone levels start to decrease. Estrogen is essential for bone strength. Lack of estrogen can contribute to the development of osteoporosis, which causes bones to become weak and brittle. Very weak and brittle bones can break without the impact of a fall.
Smoking, taking certain drugs, an unhealthy diet, lack of weight bearing exercise and genetics may also play a role in bone mineral loss. Though women are more susceptible to bone loss, men can also develop osteoporosis.
Building bone mass starts when we are young. We should encourage children to be active, exercise and live a healthy lifestyle because the more bone mass we accumulate in our younger years the less quickly we will deplete it.
For those age 65 and older, Medicare will pay for a bone density scan every two years and, depending on the diagnosis, even more often.
Obviously, bone density should be a topic that is discussed with a doctor once a woman begins to experience menopausal symptoms or even before – especially women who have experienced early menopause. However, the subject was never brought up by my doctor or by me. Since I had no overt symptoms of menopause, I blithely continued with my life, believing that I was immune to its ravages.
As you know from reading my previous blogs, this assumption was not true!