Vitality - Healthy Aging NewsletterSpring 2012

Take Any Fracture Seriously and Have a Bone Scan

Last March, Sheila Kasprzyk missed a bottom step and fractured her ankle. "I was shocked to find I would need surgery," she says.

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After the surgery, her doctor recommended a follow-up bone density scan, which she had in May. "He said I had osteoporosis and prescribed medication, extra calcium and vitamin D, and regular exercise. I don't want this to happen again so I have great incentive to go to the gym regularly."

If you've had a low-impact fracture but haven't followed up with a bone density scan, contact your doctor and ask for this test. As part of your Senior Well Visit, your primary care doctor has likely talked to you about osteoporosis and screening recommendations.

However, if you went to an orthopedist or specialist for a fracture, it's possible that you may not have received a reminder to get a bone density scan.

"Follow-up testing within two months is important because in the 10 years after an initial low-impact fracture, women are 2 times more likely to have another and men 3 1/2 times more likely," says Fred Heidrich, MD, family physician at Capitol Hill Family Health Center. "Any fracture should be taken seriously."

To help prevent another fracture, your doctor may prescribe medication and supplements, and recommend that you do weight-bearing exercises, stop smoking, and limit your alcohol consumption. You may also be referred to other specialty departments such as orthopedics, rheumatology, obstetrics/gynecology, and endocrinology.

Bone density testing is important because a fracture is often the first indication that you have osteoporosis. Group Health Cooperative recommends screening for all women over age 65, postmenopausal women under age 65 with one or more risk factors for osteoporosis, and any woman over 50 who has suffered a fracture.

"Osteoporosis is detectable and treatable," says Dr. Heidrich. "Talk with your doctor about your risks and be sure you get a bone density scan when recommended. Women over 64 who have never been screened can expect an annual reminder letter."

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