Identifying and diagnosing conditions related to osteoporosis just got easier and more convenient for the Heart of Texas. On the last Wednesday of each month, a mobile bone densitometer visits the Heart of Texas Memorial Hospital and provides bone density readings for patients. The simple screening process is doctor recommended and takes only 10-15 minutes. Osteoporosis is a bone disease in which bones become thinner and more porous. It is usually a painless disease until a bone breaks or fractures. Fractures are the most common result of osteoporosis and more than 1.5 million osteoporisis-related fractures occur each year in the United States. Most of these fractures occur in older women and are located in the spine, hip and wrist. “This simple test is a great tool for preventing osteoporosis,” said Della Kinney, a radiological technician with Diagnostic Management Group of Abilene. “A lot of people don’t realize how beneficial this screening can be. If osteoporosis is caught early enough, it can be stopped or even reversed with the proper medication.” Although not all causes of osteoporosis are known, loss of estrogen due to menopause is a known factor for women. Osteoporosis is most common in older women with approximately 25 percent of women over the age of 60 being positively diagnosed. Women who either have had menopause or have had their ovaries surgically removed before the age of 45 are more likely to develop osteoporosis. Other factors that may contribute to osteoporosis include having a small body frame, excessive use of alcohol, smoking cigarettes and doing excessively strenuous exercise that stops menstrual periods. “People who have a family history of osteoporosis are encouraged to talk to their doctor about being tested,” said Kinney. “Men can also have the disease and of the ones we have tested, more of them have it than not.” Bone density testing is used to diagnose the disease. This testing measures bone mineral content and is done similar to regular x-rays. A miniature x-ray of the spine or hip is taken and analyzed by a radiologist. Although there is no cure for osteoporosis, there are several medications that slow and sometimes stop bone mineral loss. These drugs are called antiresorptive drugs. Examples of these drugs are estrogen, biophosphonates and calcitonin. Estrogen treatment is considered to be the most effective way to regain lost bone mineral and prevent fractures. Women who are past menopause, no matter what their age, may be candidates for estrogen treatment. The use of estrogen strengthens the spine and reduces the chance of fractures and can also reduce the risk of developing heart disease as well as having a stroke. If the chance for osteoporosis is prevalent in one’s family history, there are several things that may be done to help reduce the risk of developing the disease. Doing some form of weight-bearing exercise, taking calcium supplements, eating nutritious foods, avoiding tobacco and excessive amounts of alcohol and having regular physical exams are all ways to help prevent this common disease.