The bones of the human body are naturally strong and dense, but these qualities can reduce over time with age and due to certain diseases. Fortunately, there are scientific ways to measure bone density so that you can detect a problem early and do something about it.
Here’s why bone density matters and what you can do to naturally improve the density of your bones.
Understanding Bone Density
Bone density, also known as bone mass, is a measurement of how strong your bones are, or more specifically, the amount of minerals that are contained in a volume of bone. Bones are largely mostly made up of calcium and phosphorous, so mineral deficiencies can be to blame for below-normal bone mass. Bones are designed to change and adapt over time because the body absorbs old bone and creates new bone with a healthy balance between old and new.
What Makes Bones Lose Density
Various diseases can case bones to lose their density, especially osteoporosis, which is very common among women and men after age 65. People who have cancer are likely to lose bone density. Low calcium intake, sedentary lifestyles, genetics, and aging contribute to bone loss over time. Rheumatoid arthritis, type-1 diabetes, long-term kidney disease, and some medications used to treat seizures or block hormones can lead to bone loss as well.
Why Bone Density Matters
Bone density measurements are important because they are the best way to predict a broken bone before it happens. This measurement can also diagnose a person with osteoporosis so that a doctor can provide treatment for this bone-weakening disease.
By checking your bone density measurement, you will know if your bones are getting stronger, weaker, or staying the same. If you have already been diagnosed with osteoporosis, the test can let you know if your current osteoporosis treatment strategies are actually working.
Testing for Bone Density
Physicians use a DXA machine to test for bone density of the hips and spine as a way of diagnosing osteoporosis. This machine checks for the amount of bone in various parts of the body and is a recommended test for people who are over age 65, who have recently broken a bone and are at least 50 years old, and who have a history of osteoporosis in the family. People also choose to get bone density tests if they have noticed a loss of height or are experiencing back pain.
While the central DXA test is the primary type of bone density test, there are also peripheral tests known as the peripheral dual energy x-ray absorptiometry, quantitative ultrasound, and peripheral quantitative computed tomography. These tests check the bone density in the lower arms, fingers, wrists, and heels.
How to Improve Bone Density
While you may not be able to actually add mass onto your bones, it is possible to slow down the process of bone loss through healthy lifestyle habits. It is highly recommended to eat natural foods that are rich in calcium and vitamin D to support strong bones. Good foods to get these nutrients include milk, fatty fish like salmon, spinach, kale, and yogurt. Weight-bearing exercise, such as walking, tennis, and weight lifting, are also great for building up bone strength and preventing excess bone loss. Other tips for building healthy bones are to eat lots of vegetables and fruits, get enough protein in your diet since much of bone is made of protein, and to maintain a healthy weight.