Q. Osteoporosis is common in my family. How often should I get my bone density levels checked, and what does that involve?
A. Osteoporosis is a disease of progressive bone loss associated with an increased risk of fractures. The disease often develops unnoticed over many years, with no symptoms or discomfort until a fracture occurs. If no risk factors are present, women at age 65 and men at age 70 should get their bone density levels checked.
If women or men ages 50 to 69 have any risk factors for serious bone loss, for example a family history of osteoporosis, they should get a DEXA (dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry) scan. DEXA scans are recommended every two to three years after age 50 if you’ve been previously diagnosed with bone loss or osteopenia (a bone condition characterized by bone loss that’s not as severe as in osteoporosis). A bone density (DEXA) scan is a simple, non-invasive, and painless exam. The standard test uses a low dose X-ray to detect signs of bone thinning and mineral loss.