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Know Your Bones

By Robert S. Fredericks, MD

In recent years the value of bone density measurement has allowed for the assessment of fracture risk. This advance provides not only for the management of osteoporosis, but also for an increased awareness of the function of bones and metabolism. Bones are, in fact, constantly changing in response to a person's metabolic needs, and serve as a reservoir for minerals in addition to their function as a support system. This means that your bones support the structure and metabolism of your body.

The value of bone densitometry in the evaluation of fracture risk can lead to prevention of future fractures. This is accomplished by treating with therapies that alter the metabolism in such a way that more net bone is formed. In this sense, treatment of reduced bone density is directed towards correcting metabolic imbalances that are reflected in the bone structure. As imbalances in metabolism often influence other aspects of health, it is quite probable that correction of bone density also allows for the prevention or improvement of other health problems.

It is an emerging concept that many illnesses are related to individual predisposition. Effective prevention and therapy require recognition of the individual's metabolic background. This includes nutrition, heredity and life experience. It appears that evaluation of bones is one very important aspect in the understanding of an individual's health risks.

At the present time the role of bone density is best understood in the assessment of fracture risk. The future appears likely to provide uses for bone densitometry as a means for evaluation and treatment of a much broader spectrum of health problems, hopefully at a time when prevention can be utilized instead of waiting to intervene in an established disease. Perhaps we should pay attention to what we "know in our bones".

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