| Tue, May 24, 2016 @ 09:00 AM

No Bones about It: Osteoporosis is Serious

Posted by Medicare Made Clear

OsteoporosisYou can’t feel your bones becoming weaker. But that’s exactly what’s happening when you have osteoporosis.

Your body makes new bone and loses old bone throughout your life. You make more bone than you lose when you’re young. The balance shifts as you age. Bone growth slows down. You may eventually lose more bone than you make.

Osteoporosis happens when your body loses too much bone or doesn’t make enough new bone. This is true for men and women.

For women, bone loss increases after menopause. Women can lose up to 20 percent or more of their bone density, according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF).

Weaker bones mean greater risk for bone fractures. Hip fractures, often the result of falls, are particularly dangerous for older adults. Healing and rehabilitation after breaking a hip can be a long process. Some people never regain their former strength and mobility.

Men Get Osteoporosis, Too

Men are not immune to osteoporosis, though women are at greater risk. In fact, NOF states that men over age 50 are more likely to break a bone due to osteoporosis than they are to get prostate cancer.

Are You At Risk?

The main risk factors for osteoporosis in both women and men are:

  • A family history of osteoporosis
  • Being physically inactive
  • Smoking
  • Drinking too much alcohol
  • Taking steroid medications for 3 or more months

It’s important to talk to your doctor about any health problems you have and your risk for bone loss.

Medicare Covers Bone Density Tests

A bone density test, or bone mass measurement, uses an X-ray to tell if you have normal bone density, low bone density (osteopenia) or osteoporosis. The test can also help you and your doctor monitor your bone density to see if preventive or treatment measures are helping. Medicare Part B covers a bone density test once every 2 years if your doctor or other health care provider prescribes it and you are eligible.

To be eligible you must be at risk for osteoporosis and meet one of the following conditions:

  • You are a woman and your doctor determines you are estrogen deficient and at risk for osteoporosis.
  • Your X-rays show possible osteoporosis, osteopenia or vertebral fractures.
  • You take prednisone or steroid-type drugs or are planning to begin this treatment.
  • You have been diagnosed with primary hyperparathyroidism.
  • You are being monitored to see if your osteoporosis drug therapy is working.

You pay no co-insurance, co-pay or deductible for bone density tests, as long as your provider accepts Medicare assignment. However, if you are diagnosed with osteoporosis when you are tested, costs may apply. This is true whether you have Original Medicare or a Medicare Advantage plan.

Protect Your Bones

Exercise is one of the best things you can do for your bones. Any activity that gets your body moving can help build bone strength. Walking, biking, gardening—even cleaning the house. The important thing is to do some physical activity most days of the week.

Getting enough calcium and vitamin D is also important for building and maintaining healthy bones. Talk to your health care provider about ways to keep your bones healthy.


What you don’t know could hurt you. A bone density test is the only way to tell if you are losing bone mass. Ask your doctor about your osteoporosis risk and whether a bone density test makes sense for you.

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For more information, explore MedicareMadeClear.com or contact the Medicare helpline 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227), TTY 1-877-486-2048.


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