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Osteoporosis Health Center

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Understanding Osteoporosis - Prevention

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Want to learn more about osteoporosis prevention? Read on to find out how you can prevent bone loss and debilitating fractures by making some simple lifestyle changes.

What is my personal risk of getting osteoporosis?

Bone loss with osteoporosis is a result of both genetic and environmental factors. To prevent osteoporosis or to stop bone loss, you must first understand your personal risk of getting osteoporosis.

To find out more about risk factors, see WebMD's Osteoporosis Risk Factors: Are You at Risk?

What's a bone density test for osteoporosis?

A bone density test measures a small part of one or a few bones to evaluate the strength of your bones and potential risk for osteoporosis. The bones most commonly measured by a bone density test include the hip, the spine, and the heel.

The most widely used bone density test is the DXA test of the hip and lower spine. DXA stands for dual energy X-ray absorptiometry. The DXA test, which uses X-ray technology, is painless and takes about 10 minutes. It uses only a fraction of the radiation needed for a chest X-ray. Your doctor can order the DXA bone density test and give you your T-score, which represents the overall strength of your bone.

A T-score is a measurement of how you compare to young adults of the same sex and race. If you fall below average, the T-score will be a negative number. A T-score between -1 and -2.5 indicates low bone mass, a condition called osteopenia, which is mild thinning of bone. It is not, however, as severe as osteoporosis. A T-score below -2.5 (for example, -3) indicates your bone mass is significantly thinner than that of a young adult. This is a sign that you have osteoporosis.

For more information, see WebMD's Bone Density Tests.

How important is regular exercise for preventing osteoporosis?

It's recommended that adults get at least 30 minutes of exercise each day to strengthen bones and prevent osteoporosis. Weight-bearing exercises force your body to resist gravity and stimulate cells in the body that make new bone.

Strength training causes the muscles to pull on the bone. This results in increased bone strength. Strength training also increases flexibility and reduces the likelihood of falling -- the number-one risk factor for hip fracture.

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