How often should a low-risk individual get a bone density test? Canadian authorities say only every 5 years.

If you are thinking that you should have a bone mineral density retest every year or two, you should know that Canadian osteoporosis authorities might disagree. Summer 2008 findings from the large Canadian Multicentre Osteoporosis Study led researchers to suggest that bone density testing in middle-aged and older adults can be delayed for intervals of up to five years in the absence of risk factors for bone loss, unless a therapeutic intervention is being monitored.

As the researchers report, while current guidelines recommend that measurements of bone density be repeated once every two or three years, their data suggest that, at this rate of testing, the average person would exhibit changes well below the margin of error. “Consequently … repeat measurements of bone density could be safely delayed for intervals of up to 5 years unless a therapeutic intervention is being monitored or there are additional clinical risk factors for bone loss, such as corticosteroid use.”

The study included 4,433 women and 1,935 men, and interestingly enough, bone loss was found to begin earlier in men—between 25 and 39 years of age. Bone loss in women appeared to begin between ages 40 and 44, with the greatest rate of decline between ages 50 and 54, followed by a slower decline. Then from age 70 onwards both women and men experienced another phase of accelerated bone loss.

And what about those at high risk for excessive bone loss and/or fracture?

We at the Center for Better Bones monitor high-risk individuals on our natural bone-building programs with regular bone resorption tests every six months or so and bone density testing at 2 to 3 year intervals.

For details on testing the success of your bone building program using bone resorption markers see my articles, Bone testing – assessing bone breakdown and bone loss, and Bone density testing.

Finally, if you wonder whether you are at high risk for osteoporosis, check into our interactive Bone Fracture Risk Assessment Questionnaire.

 

Reference:
Berger, C. et al. 2008. Change in bone mineral density as a function of age in women and men and association with use of anti-resorptive agents. CMAJ, 178(13):1660-8.

 


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