Q: When should I be screened for osteoporosis? If I have it, what are my treatment options?

A: The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends screening for osteoporosis in women older than 65 or in women whose risk equals that of a 65-year-old white woman.

The frequency of screening can vary. Your healthcare provider may recommend screening every two years to help predict your probability of fracture.

Osteoporosis is a disease that results in low bone mass and increased risk of fracture. In the U.S., more than 75 million people are affected.

Risk factors for osteoporosis include: advanced age, smoking, excessive alcohol intake, low body weight (less than 127 pounds), long-term steroid use, previous fracture and family history of hip fracture.

Typically, healthcare providers use dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry, or DEXA, to diagnose osteoporosis.

You might also be diagnosed with the condition if you suffer a fracture without any trauma, such as in a car accident. This is known as a “fragility fracture.”

Once you have osteoporosis, there are steps you can take to manage it.

Depending on the severity of your condition, your doctor might prescribe medication to stop the bone loss and prevent fractures.

To prevent osteoporosis, be sure to include enough calcium and vitamin D in your diet. Some calcium-rich foods are broccoli, kale, cauliflower, salmon, tofu, leafy green vegetables, nonfat or low-fat milk and low-fat yogurt.

Vitamin D can be found in fatty fish such as salmon and tuna.

Postmenopausal women who get 1,200 milligrams of calcium in their diet daily do not need to take calcium supplements. If your dietary intake is lower, you might need a supplement.

Your doctor might also recommend a Vitamin D supplement because deficiencies in this mineral can accelerate bone loss.

Exercise is important, whether you have osteoporosis or are trying to prevent it. Aim for at least three times per week.

Weight-bearing exercises, such as resistance training, jumping, jogging and walking, could improve bone health in your spine. Muscle-strengthening exercises such as weight lifting also help support healthy bones. Pick an exercise that you enjoy so you’ll stick with it.

Depending on your bone mineral density readings, which measure the amount of calcium in your bones, and your risk factors, your doctor may prescribe medication.

Oral bisphosphonates, such as Fosamax, are commonly given to treat osteoporosis. However, in severe cases of osteoporosis, you may need other types of medication.

Talk to your healthcare provider about your risk factors for osteoporosis. He or she can discuss your treatment options, along with lifestyle changes.

Heather Barnard is a board-certified family nurse practitioner who sees patients at Memorial Health University Physicians – Legacy Center in Okatie.