The other day, I organized a health and charity event which benefited the local Food Bank. I had health vendors sign up for tables so people can find out more about their services. One such service was, Dr. Ken Howayeck who is a podiatrist performing bone density tests. I’ve never had such a test done so I was curious to see what my results would be. Being that my first reason for taking up strength training was to prevent Osteoporosis, I wanted to see how I was doing.
To my delight, I passed the test with flying colors! But, I didn’t know how great my results were until Dr. Howayeck told me I had 2 major risk factors going against me – I am a woman of Southeast Asian descent. According to him, with those 2 risk factors, I should not have the numbers that I got. He told me that I should be proud of myself and that I should show my results to my clients. So, I decided I’d share my results with you and share a little bit of what I learned about the importance of knowing your bone density and having dense bones.
After much research, the first obvious consequence of not having dense bones is Osteoporosis. According to the Mayo Clinic, Osteoporosis, which means “porous bones,” causes bones to become weak and brittle — so brittle that a fall or even mild stresses like bending over or coughing can cause a fracture. A mild case of Osteoporosis is Osteopenia. In many cases, bones weaken when you have low levels of calcium and other minerals in your bones. Before, women are the most likely to get Osteoporosis but some men can get it too.
A bone density test is the first step to find out if you are at risk for Osteoporosis. It is a fairly accurate predictor of your risk of fracture. Dr. Howayeck’s test which scanned my heel cost me $15 because it is what they call a peripheral test. Some tests that scan the hip bones and spine which they call central tests may be more expensive. I recommend at least getting a peripheral test done so you can get a good idea of your risk for Osteoporosis.
Here are some facts I found about Osteoporosis:
The National Osteoporosis Foundation recommends bone density testing if:
- You’re a woman age 65 or older
- You’re a postmenopausal woman under age 65 with one or more risk factors for osteoporosis
- You’re a man age 70 or older
- You’re a man between age 50 and 70 with one or more risk factors for osteoporosis
- You’re older than age 50 and you’ve experienced a broken bone
- You’re a postmenopausal woman and you’ve stopped taking estrogen therapy or hormone therapy
Note: It seems that the National Osteoporosis Foundation recommends the test for people who are 50 and older but as with everything, knowing what your risks are early in life so you can prevent getting the disease is a lot better than taking care of the symptoms when it’s too late to do anything about it. When you think about $15 is small change compared to the cost of hip surgery.
Risk factors for osteoporosis include:
- Getting older, which increases your risk of osteoporosis because bones become weaker as you age
- Ethnicity — for instance, women who are white or of Southeast Asian descent have the greatest risk of osteoporosis, and African-American and Hispanic men and women have a lower, but still significant, risk of the disease
- Low body weight, or under 125 pounds (56.7 kilograms) if you’re of average height
- A personal history of fractures after age 40
- A parental history of osteoporosis or hip fractures
- Using certain medications that can cause bone loss, especially steroids
Dr. Howayeck gave me a copy of my results so I scanned it and posted it below (you may click on the image to make it bigger):
As you can see from my results, my numbers are way above what the average is for my age and ethnicity. A T-score of above -1 is considered normal. If you’d like to find out what T-score and Z-score mean in more detail, please go to the Mayo Clinic web site. Please note that I’m not putting my numbers here so I can brag about it. Rather, I wanted to spread the word on the importance of strength training and how it can help you lower your risk for Osteoporosis.
How Strength Training Helps Increase Bone Density
As your muscles become more toned and get bigger, your bones also have to get bigger so they can support your bigger muscles. I’m not saying you have to look like Ms. Olympia with huge muscles. Any sort of muscle growth will help lower your risk for this disease. As I said earlier, this is my main reason for starting strength training in the first place and I can see that my efforts are paying off. I hope you do the same as well.