Osteopenia and Osteoporosis: Why is It Important to Have a Bone Density Test?
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Osteopenia and Osteoporosis: Why is It Important to Have a Bone Density Test?

Women, especially, are at risk of developing osteoporosis when they begin to reach their menopausal years. It is important for women and men to have bone density scans. Most of us won’t even know if we have osteopenia or osteoporosis until we have a bone density test or we break a bone.

It is important to have a bone density test (scan) done by the time you are 55 years of age. Women are more at risk for osteoporosis at this age than me; however, men are likely to also develop low bone density as they age into their 60s and 70s.

As we begin to age, most of us begin to lose bone mass. This is why we start taking calcium supplements with Vitamin D to put the calcium back into our bones. The calcium and the other minerals that we get from our food sources goes to build the matrix, or framework, for our bones. Our bones are not solid; they are alive. They depend on the matrix to keep them healthy and strong. When the matrix gets too thin, the bones become weak and can break easily.

The prefix, osteo, refers to bone. If the suffix is penia, as in osteopenia, it refers to bone density that is below normal. Thus, the medical term, osteopenia, refers to thinning bones. The bones have lost enough mass to make them weak and thin. In osteoporosis, the suffix osis refers to the bones being porous. Osteoporosis is a degenerative weakening and thinning of the bones.

The difference between osteopenia and osteoporosis is that in osteopenia the bone and mineral loss isn’t as significant as it is in osteoporosis. To be diagnosed with osteopenia or osteoporosis you will need to take a bone density test. The bone density test gives two scores which are your T-score and your Z-score. Your scores will be compared to the scores of others of your age, ethnicity, weight and gender.

T-score values indicate:

-1 and above indicate that your bone density is normal

-1 to -2.5 indicates you have osteopenia

2.5 and below indicates you have osteoporosis

A Z-score compares your test results with what is

The Z-score represents the number of deviations. Click here to understand more about T-scores and Z-scores.

The bone density test is as special type of X-ray that measures the amount of calcium and other essential minerals that your bones contain. This type of X-ray can be done on the hip, the arm, or on the spine.

Why are bone density tests done on these areas of the body? They are done in these areas, because they are the most likely to break if you have low bone density. This test is very easy to take. You just lie on the table and the X-ray machine is placed over the appropriate area and the test is taken. It only takes about 10 minutes for this test to be completed. It’s all computerized and measures the amount of mineral in your bones. The mineral, calcium and other minerals, make up the matrix of the bone. Most doctors have a small bone density testing machine in their offices. The test is done on the fingers. If the test in the doctor’s office indicates a possible low score, your doctor may send you to have a bone density scan done.


Bone Density Tests

Mayo Clinic


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Comments (3)

Still a few years away, but thanks for the excellent info.

excellent, no votes left so I tweeted

Thanks Brenda. Thank you also Carol. I have abnormal bone density. I have to load up with cheese and milk and other high calcium foods. I hope my test will be better this year.