Bone Density Chart: Understand Your Bone Density Scores

Even if you're otherwise healthy, getting a baseline bone density test can predict even the slightest beginnings of bone loss in your future.

There are a variety of bone density tests available, but the "gold standard" test for diagnosing osteoporosis is the DEXA scan.

There are a variety of bone density tests available, but the "gold standard" test for diagnosing osteoporosis is the DEXA scan.

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Osteoporosis is an insidious illness that sneaks up on you. Studies suggest that about 50 percent of women over the age of 50 will suffer a fracture related to bone loss. And each year, approximately 80,000 men have a hip fracture. That’s why it’s so critical to undergo bone density testing. Even if you’re otherwise healthy, getting a baseline bone density test can predict even the slightest beginnings of bone loss in your future.

There are a variety of bone density tests available, but the “gold standard” test for diagnosing osteoporosis is the DEXA scan, also written as “DXA scan” (dual energy X-ray absorptiometry), which measures bone density in the spine, hip, or wrist.

If you do have low bone density, these are the most common locations for fractures.

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Does the DEXA Scan Hurt?

A DEXA scan is painless and only takes about 15 minutes to perform. During the test, you lie on your back on a table and a scanner passes over your body taking radiographic images.

Who Should Get a DEXA Scan?

DEXA screening is recommended for all men over the age of 70 and all women over the age of 65. Bone density should also be measured in women between the ages of 50 and 65 who are considered high risk for osteoporosis. In addition to obtaining an initial DEXA scan, repeating the scan every two to five years is recommended, depending on your risk factors.

What About Radiation Exposure?

The radiation emitted from a DEXA scan is about one-tenth the radiation emitted from a chest x-ray. Still, there are other bone density tests which emit less or no radiation at all: QCT scan, NTx urine test, or vitamin D test.

Interpreting Your Bone Density Scores

DEXA bone density scores are measured as “T-scores,” which is a comparison of a person’s bone density with that of a healthy 30-year-old of the same sex. The lower bone density scores, the lower your total bone density, indicating osteopenia or osteoporosis.

T-Score Bone Density Chart:

Bone Density Chart: Understand Your Bone Density Scores A T-score of -1.0 to -2.5 signifies osteopenia, meaning below-normal bone density without full-blown osteoporosis. This stage of bone loss is the precursor to osteoporosis.

Using a Bone Density Chart to Estimate Total Bone Loss

To better understand the current health of your bones, you should multiply your T-score by 10 percent (as shown in the bone density chart below). This will give you a rough estimate of how much bone density has already been lost.

Bone Density Chart for Estimated Amount of Bone Loss

Bone Density Chart for Estimated Amount of Bone Loss

Keep in Mind…

Focusing too closely on the DEXA bone density scores can be a mistake. Many doctors admit that the DEXA T-score is not a perfect predictor for bone health or fracture risk. That’s why it’s important to consider taking the other tests. Furthermore, your risk factors are just as important as your T-score and may lead to better predictions of bone disease. In order to determine your true osteoporosis risk factors, use our self-test here:

Should I Be Worried About Bone Loss? Use Our Quiz to Find Out!

Now that you understand your bone density scores, here’s what to do about it. If your DEXA bone density scores show that you’re in danger for developing osteoporosis or if you have discovered by using our self-test that you indeed have several risk factors, this should not be ignored. You need to take steps right now to fight this disease. Don’t forget that full-blown osteoporosis is a serious condition that can have devastating consequences on your health and quality of life. Getting low bone density scores is only an initial warning. Are you going to sit there and do nothing or will you begin to prepare for the oncoming attack?


Originally published in 2013.

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Comments
  • Caryl M.

    My doctor is unreachable until the end of the month. I just got these results and have no idea what they mean? Should I be limiting my activity? I do half marathons twice a month, I hike, bike rollerblade and ski. I am afraid my bones may turn to dust and I should be limiting activity.

    -Measurement-

    Gender: Female Ethnicity: Caucasian Age: 61

    Scan date: 10/24/2016 Technologist: LA Location: Newton

    Device: 83823 Model: Hologic Discovery A

    Indication(s): family history of osteoporosis, the patient is a

    postmenopausal woman with estrogen deficiency and clinical risk

    of osteoporosis who presents for bone densitometry evaluation,

    monitored to assess the response to or efficacy of an

    FDA-approved osteoporosis drug therapy, the patient is a

    postmenopausal woman with estrogen deficiency and clinical risk

    of osteoporosis who presents for bone densitometry evaluation.

    -Bone Density-

    —————————————————————–

    Skeletal Site BMD(g/cm2) T-score Z-score Classification

    PA Spine (L1-L4) 0.696 -3.2 -1.7 Osteoporosis

    Right Hip (Total) 0.604 -2.8 -1.8 Osteoporosis

    Right Hip (Femoral Neck)0.536 -2.8 -1.5 Osteoporosis

    -Previous Exams-

    —————————————————————–

    Exam BMD BMD Change BMD Change

    Region Date Age (g/cm2) vs Baseline vs Previous

    PA Spine (L1-L4)

    10/24/16 61 0.696 -1% 1%

    10/08/15 59 0.689 -2% -5% *

    02/28/14 58 0.728 4% 4%

    07/14/11 55 0.703 N/A N/A

    Right Hip (Total)

    10/24/16 61 0.604 -5% * 4%

    10/08/15 59 0.582 -9% * 0%

    02/28/14 58 0.581 -9% * -9% *

    07/14/11 55 0.638 N/A N/A

    Right Hip (Femoral Neck)

    10/24/16 61 0.536 -2% 2%

    10/08/15 59 0.524 -4% -4%

    02/28/14 58 0.544 -0% -0%

    07/14/11 55 0.546 N/A N/A

    —————————————————————–

    (* = significant change)

    IMPRESSION:

    Interpretation: Based on WHO criteria, this patient has

    osteoporosis. Evidence of likely no statistically significant

    change in bone density since previous study.

    A FRAX(r) score was not calculated because the patient

    indicated treatment for osteoporosis.

    Measurement of the PA spine was technically adequate.

    Measurement of the right proximal femur was technically

    adequate.

    Recommendations: Follow up in 2 years recommended.

    Comments: Forteo

  • Carly, I don’t think anyone from this site will legally be able to advise you on what you should or should not do. However, I can tell you what my doctor told me since I’m in a similar situation. And again, this is just for comparison. I’m not a doctor and I’m not giving you medical advice. My doctors told me to remain active with walking, jogging, and weight-bearing exercises. She told me to try to get most of my daily calcium from food sources and she also recommended I take Forteo, but I’m struggling with that decision because of all the crazy side-effects of this drug. I personally have my doubts about calling osteoporosis a “disease.” This is the body going through natural changes, in my opinion. My mother is 75, has been told she has osteoporosis, has never taken any osteo drugs, and has never broken a bone. Also, what did women do in the past when these drugs didn’t exist?? I never read of any widespread occurrence of broken hips in women in the past. I may be wrong, but I think these drug companies then to gain a lot from all this osteoporosis panic. Just make sure you’re getting enough calcium in your diet, exercising daily and talk to your doctor about ALL your options. Take care.

  • ask your OBGYN if they test your blood for hormones. I take Bio-Identical hormone replacement therapy. my tablets are designed just for me and what my body has lost. My osteoporosis has been getting better for 2 years! I am now osteopenia. Ive worked out at the gym for 20years.I also was on bisphosanates for my bone lose for 6 years they never helped! and caused me much intestional issues and pain in my bone.good luck!

  • Kathy above says that she’s not aware of lots of older women with broken hips. I can say there are a lot of them out there. Broken hips from falls around the home are very common in older women. Sadly, a large proportion of older women who break a hip will die in the next year, even though the hip heals. The immobility causes many other problems, sometimes they will never return home if they can’t complete physical therapy in a nursing home. I have seen this in relatives in my own family, and in families of my friends and in-laws. Exercise is the gold standard, the meds are believed to help somewhat. Good luck.

  • I would appreciate any/all advice from those who have improved their overall bone density & how. I REALLY swore off of using the usual medications for various reasons…but, my T scores continue to decline. L hip -2.6 lumbar spine went from -3.2 to -4.1 (done at same location/machine/different tech) Nancy (who replied on 12/13/16 – I’d like to know what blood hormone tests to request to have the Bio-Identical therapy created.

  • This article is wrong they advise waiting until you’re much older than necessary. AS a woman I’ve been offered bone density screenings since I hit 50, I’m now 57. Don’t wait until you’re 65, and I really doubt men should wait until age 70. Get a doctor who cares.

  • I’m only 44, and just had a bone density scan. It showed that I’m in the “Osteopenia” section of the scale. I had this test, as I think I am having issues with my parathyroid (nothing to do with thyroid) Have any of you looked into issues with your parathyroid? Supposedly, once it’s removed, the bones start immediately repairing themselves.

  • I just got the results from my bone density. They told me my hip was 1.2 and the major was 16. Everything I read talks about T Scores so I can’t read about my results. The nurse did say I was osteopenia. How do I know my T Score?
    Thanks

  • I’m 58, 5’1″, 110 lb female. Dexa scan indicates T Score -4.3
    My stomach won’t tolerate oral calcium, I’m allergic to opiates, and sensitive to many medicines. I had Forteo 15 years ago for 6 months resulting in improvements.
    This year, 2017, my new doctor prescribed
    Forteo, but CARE SOURCE INSURANCE, DAYTON, OHIO
    REJECTED the Rx, saying it wasn’t medically necessary.
    I have a compression fracture on my lumbar spine, as well.
    Insurance companies like CARESOURCE are contributing to
    illness and disability

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