Osteoporosis Risk Missed in Too Many Women

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IT'S EASY TO get tested for osteoporosis with a simple bone mineral density scan, but as many as half of all women at high risk for the disease--or who already have it--don't know it.

Researchers reporting in the Journal of the American Medical Association made the finding when they arranged for a bone mineral density measurement at the forearm, finger, or heel of more than 200,000 women 50 and older. About half had previously undetected low bone mineral density. Specifically, 40 percent of them had osteopenia, a precursor to osteoporosis, and 7 percent had osteoporosis itself.

A year later, when most of the women provided follow-up information on fractures, it was clear that those with low bone density measurements were at increased risk for breaking a bone. The ones with osteopenia had a fracture rate twice that of women with normal bone mineral density, while fracture risk in women with osteoporosis was four times the normal rate.

The only way to determine osteoporosis risk is through a bone mineral density test. All women who are postmenopausal and have at least one additional risk factor (such as a family history of osteoporosis) or who have fractured a bone, as well as all women over age 65, should ask their doctor about getting the test.

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