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HEALTH TESTS

What is Bone Density Test: 5 Important Things You Should Know about It

Bone density test helps determine the minerals present in a bone segment

DEXA scan is one the most accurate lab tests to measure bone density

Bone density test can help your doctor diagnose osteopenia or osteoporosis

B
Bajaj Finserv Health
April 8th, 2022
8 mins read

Your bones protect your organs and internal muscles which is why it is important to have a good bone density. Apart from this, bones also help store calcium and give structure. Bone density refers to the amount of minerals present in a certain volume of bone. A good bone density test indicates that your bones are strong, healthy and less likely to break.

Your bones change continuously, meaning that old bones break and new bones form. This change is quicker when you are young, and you reach your peak bone mass around the age of 30 [1]. After this age, your bones keep changing but you may gain less bone mass than you lose. Apart from age, gender also plays a major role for the changes in bone density and bone problems. Women over the age of 50 are 4 times more likely to develop osteoporosis and 2 times more likely to develop osteopenia [2].

One of the ways you can check the health of your bones is through a bone density test. Also known as the bone mineral density test, this test helps determine how many minerals are present in a segment of bone. Read on to know more about bone density test, its purpose, and what do the test results indicate.

Bone Density Tes

What is bone density test and why is it done? 

A bone density test is a lab test that helps determine whether you have osteoporosis. Bone density test is quick, painless, and performed with an X-ray. It measures the amount of minerals present in a bone segment. It can also help recognize a decline in bone density and determine your risk of broken bones. Apart from this, a test can help keep track your osteoporosis treatment.

Additional Read:  Bone Marrow Biopsy

How is a bone density test performed? 

There are various ways to measure your bone density. One most accurate and common way is the dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DEXA scan). It is usually performed in a radiologist’s lab. Your doctor may ask you to stop consuming calcium supplements 24-48 hours prior to the test.

Before the bone density test or scan, the doctor will ask you to lie on a padded table with your legs straight. A scanning machine will pass over your hips and lower spine. Another scanner, known as photon generator will pass from beneath you. The images from these two scanners are then sent to computer. You will need to stay very still during the scanning and you may also be asked to hold your breath for accurate results. The test may last for 10-30 minutes.

To measure the bone density in your hand, foot, or forearm, doctors use a portable scanner known as p-DEXA (peripheral DEXA).

Risk factors that affects bone Health

Risk Factors that affects Bone Health

What are the limitations of a bone density test? 

A test is mostly safe but there can be the following limitations to it. 

  • Different testing methods like a DEXA scan or p-DEXA scan have different results 
  • It only helps measure the density but cannot help diagnose the cause 
  • If you have previous spine problems, a test may not give accurate results
  • Since, test uses an X-ray, you are exposed to certain amount of radiation

What do the results of a bone density test mean? 

A bone density test result typically contains two scores, T-score and Z-score. T-score is the comparison score of your bone mass with that of a healthy young adult of the same sex. It is the number of units by which your bone density differs from the average result. Following is the meaning of different T-scores of a bone density test 

  • If it is -1 and above, your bone density is normal
  • If it is between the range of -1 to -2.5, your bone density is below average. A bone density between this range is a sign of osteopenia which can lead to osteoporosis
  • If the score is -2.5 or below, it indicates a high possibility of osteoporosis

Z-score is the result of comparison with people of your size, gender, and age. If your Z-score below -2.0, it indicates a low bone density caused by factors other than aging. Your doctor may advise other lab test to know the exact cause of low bone density.

Depending on the results of your test, your doctor will advise you on what to do next. If you have low bone mass, you can follow these tips to slow down bone loss: 

  • Include vitamin D and calcium rich foods in your diet 
  • Add physical activities like walking, jogging, or running to your routine 
  • Take recommended medicines, if doctors prescribe 
  • Avoid smoking and limit alcohol use

Additional Read: Tests for Rheumatoid Arthritis

Now that you know what is bone density test, its purpose, and results, taking proper care of your bones becomes easier. Just be extra attentive to your bone health if you have the risk factors that may affect it. Be sure to talk to a doctor if you notice any signs that may indicate poor bone health. Book an online consultation or in-clinic visit with top practitioners on Bajaj Finserv Health. The platform also has a pocket-friendly range of test packages you can select from. Choose a test package that meets your needs and stay on top of your health.

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