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It is recommended that women in their late forties have their bone density levels measured (even earlier for women whose life style or family history suggests that they may approach the menopause at an earlier age). Bone density is normally measured at the hips or the spine as these are two of the most often affected areas of bone loss in women affected by osteoporosis. If it is found that bone density is below normal then the doctor will likely recommend hormone replacement therapy at the time of the menopause.
It is sometimes the case that following testing bone mass loss may have already have occurred, therefore if bone density is low the doctor will often recommend that the patient takes estrogen replacement before the menopause occurs.
It is not always the case that the doctor will recommend hormone replacement treatment following the bone density testing, many women still have strong bones at this stage, especially those who have took good care of themselves through healthy diet and exercise.
The bone density test is a non invasive procedure that is normally performed by a dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry at the lower spine and hip regions. Before the test it is important not to take calcium supplements for a period of 24 hours and to eat as normally as possible. During the test for bone density the dual-energy x-ray will send to beams of radiation, one that is absorbed by the bone and one that is absorbed by normal tissues, the bone density can then be calculated computationally. Often a Lateral Vertebral Assessment is also taken at the same time in order to access if any fractures in the spine are already present.