Osteoporosis is a metabolic bone disease that poses a major health threat for nearly 45 million Americans. The disease is characterized by a decrease in bone mass, which in turn increases the susceptibility of bone to fracture (Encarta 2001). The disease affects approximately 10 million Americans, and its harmful effects are seen in about 1.5 million fractures each year (MayoClinic.com 1). As a result, much scientific research has been conducted to obtain a better understanding of the disease. Thus far, research has allowed scientists to identify various forms of the disease and their respective associated factors, which has then allowed for effective preventive and treatment methods that may eventually lead to a cure for the disease. .
Osteoporosis primarily affects women, the elderly, Caucasians, smokers, alcoholics, individuals who are calcium deficient, those who suffer from depression, those who have do not exercise regularly, and individuals with a family history of the disease (MayoClinic.com 3-4). Though an established method of diagnosing osteoporosis has not been determined, a medical history, physical exam, spinal radiograph, and densitometry exam are useful tools in determining a high risk of bone fracture (Marcus 51). Bone density tests are especially useful in allowing medical examiners to determine the rate of bone loss, detect a risk of osteoporosis prior to the occurrence of a fracture, and assess the risk of future fracture (51). For many years the main screening test for osteoporosis was dual energy X-ray absorptiometry (DEXA); but, in 1998, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved another device that is able to assess the risk of osteoporosis (MayoClinic.com 5). The sonometer, as it is called, transmits sound waves through the heel of the foot (5). Bone health is determined by observing the amount of time it takes the sound waves to travel through the bone; the longer amount of time, the more dense the bone (5).