How Do I Check My Bone Mineral Density?
What Do T-Scores Mean?
+1.0 through +4.0
High-Normal Bone Mass
-1.0 through +1.0
Normal Bone Mass
-2.5 through -1.0
-2.5 through -4.0
Thinning of the bones (osteoporosis) is a major epidemic in Western societies, especially among women after menopause. And since osteoporosis does not cause any symptoms, many people are unaware that they are losing bone mass until they break a bone. Keeping an eye on bone health is especially important for people who may have osteopenia--indications of bone loss but not full osteoporosis.
What types of tests are there?
Bone mineral density is measured several ways, and in different places in the body. For example:
In any case, the lower your bone mineral density is, the thinner your bones are, and the greater your risk is of breaking a bone.
How are the results reported?
Bone mineral density measurements are usually reported using two measurements:
What do my scores mean?
For both T-scores and Z-scores, a zero score means that your bone density is average (50th percentile) with regard to the comparison group. (A number above zero means you are above average, or have higher than average bone density, and a number below zero means you are below average, or have a lower bone density than average.)
Osteoporosis and osteopenia should be diagnosed by a doctor. However, here is how the T-scores may be interpreted:
A T-score below zero is not necessarily a concern for middle-aged or elderly people, because it is normal for older people have lower bone mineral density than young adults.
How do I know if I am at risk for osteoporosis?
Fortunately, bone mineral density tests are available that can tell you whether you have osteoporosis and how severe it is. If a test reveals that you have experienced bone loss, you can, with the help of your doctor, take measures to reduce your risk of fractures. Steps include improving diet, taking nutritional supplements, exercising, and (when appropriate) taking medication.
Who should have their bone mineral density checked?
It is commonly recommended that all women over age 65 have their bone mineral density measured. Others who should have the test include
What else can I do to protect my bones?
If you have low bone mass or osteoporosis, taking certain steps may help slow or reverse bone loss. These include:
Alan R. Gaby, MD, Chief Medical Editor
An expert in nutritional therapies, Chief Medical Editor Alan R. Gaby is a former professor at Bastyr University of Natural Health Sciences, where he served as the Endowed Professor of Nutrition. He is past-president of the American Holistic Medical Association, served as a member of the Ad-Hoc Advisory Panel of the National Institutes of Health Office of Alternative Medicine, and gave expert testimony to the White House Commission on Complementary and Alternative Medicine on the cost-effectiveness of nutritional supplements. Dr. Gaby has conducted nutrition seminars for physicians and has collected over 30,000 scientific papers related to the field of nutritional and natural medicine. In addition to editing and contributing to The Natural Pharmacy (Three Rivers Press, 2006) and the A-Z Guide to Drug-Herb-Vitamin Interactions (Three Rivers Press, 2006), Dr. Gaby has authored Preventing and Reversing Osteoporosis (Prima Lifestyles, 1995) and Nutritional Medicine (2011), a comprehensive textbook he worked on for 30 years.