What’s Your Number? The 411 on Bone Density (And Why You Should Care)

May 5, 2018   Preventative Care

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You’ve probably heard your doctor stress the importance of yearly physicals, flu shots, and mammograms — but what about the value of bone density tests?

Bone density testing is one of the many screenings we perform here at Garrison Women’s Health. The purpose of the test is to look for signs of osteoporosis, which is a deterioration of your bones that can lead to breaks and discomfort. This may be the first you’re hearing of this, so you may be wondering who needs to take this test, when you should start taking it, or whether it’s painful. Don’t worry! We have those answers for you.

What is bone density?

Bone density or bone mineral density (BMD) is the amount of bone mineral in your bones. The higher your bone mineral content, the denser your bones are. The denser your bones are, the less likely they are to break.

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What does the test measure?

A bone density scan measures the quantity of bone in specific locations throughout the body, such as the hip/pelvis and the spine, which are areas of the body that tend to lose bone density with age. The main objective is to look for changes between screenings. We recommend post-menopausal women receive screenings every 2-5 years.

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Is the test painful?

No. You don’t even need to change out of your street clothes, as long as they don’t contain metal (e.g. metal zippers). The test is quick and only takes about 15 minutes. You lie on your back while a mechanical arm passes above. By using an X-ray beam we are able to get a clear picture of the bone.

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What do the results look like?

You will receive a T-score, which is the number derived from comparing your bone density to that of a healthy 30-year-old. Your T-score represents how much higher or lower the bone density is from the young adult. Doctors then use the results to diagnose osteoporosis.

The lower the score, the lower the patient’s bone density:

  • A T-score of -1.0 or above is a sign of an individual with a healthy level of bone density. Examples of normal bone density scores are 0.9, 0 and -0.9.
  • A T-score between -1.0 and -2.5 means you have low bone density.
  • A T-score of -2.5 or below is a diagnosis of osteoporosis.

The earlier you are diagnosed, the sooner you can make a lifestyle change and possibly start medication to slow further bone deterioration.

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Kristin Yates, DO

There are no physical symptoms of osteopenia or osteoporosis, which makes bone density testing very important for early detection and treatment!

— Kristin Yates, D.O.

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