Bone Density Chart: Understand Your Bone Density Testing Scores

Even if you're otherwise healthy, getting a baseline bone density test can help predict a fracture in the future.

bone density chart

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, consulting a bone density chart and getting a baseline bone density scan can diagnose even the slightest beginnings of bone loss.

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“). The acronym stands for dual energy x-ray absorptiometry, and it measures bone density in the spine, hip, or wrist. If you do have low bone density, those are the most common locations for fractures.

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?

According to the US Preventative Services Task Force, 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 your initial DEXA scan results, repeating the scan every two to five years is recommended, depending on your risk factors.

DEXA and Radiation

The radiation emitted from a DEXA scan is about one-tenth the radiation emitted from a chest x-ray. Other bone density tests emit less or no radiation at all: a QCT scan, NTx urine test, or vitamin D test. However, these tests are not accurate for diagnosing osteoporosis and are only used to identify people who would benefit from bone density testing.

Interpret Your Bone Density Scan Results

DEXA bone scan results scores are measured as T-scores, which is a comparison of a person’s bone density with that of a healthy 30-year-old adult. The lower bone density test results, 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 results 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 can take steps right now, such as monitoring your calcium and vitamin D levels and utilizing weight-bearing exercises, to prevent or fight osteoporosis. 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 prepare for the oncoming attack?

For more information on bone health, visit the National Osteoporosis Foundation’s General Facts page.


Originally published in 2013, this post is regularly updated.

As a service to our readers, University Health News offers a vast archive of free digital content. Please note the date published or last update on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.

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  • 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.


    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)


    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


    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?

  • 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
    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

  • please check out, Osteoporosis Myth: Dangers of High Bone Density..
    A WOW article Must read to get your head on straight….

  • Nancy, I also was on Bio-identical hormones for menopause symptoms. My bone density is excellent. I’m 65, do weight training 4X a week with a trainer. My response to you is I am now off the hormones. Diagnosed with invasive breast cancer 6 months ago, estrogen, progesterone positive. Bilateral mastectomy. Traded one disease for another. Just weigh the odds.

  • Don’t know what to think to many variable’s to consider taking vitamins with calcium and vitamin D
    I have not broken a bone since I was 8 years old simple fracture in foot healed in 7 days that’s how long I wore a walking case. I had a Japanese Doctor. One the USA put in a camp during world war two the big one. He was a wise and great doctor. A bone specialist I wish he was here to answer my questions but he is dead now.

  • I am 58.. Dexa scan in 2011 was -2.5 in hips and lower lumbar, took Prolia and my score improved in 2013, insurance stopped paying and I quit taking… fast forward to now, Dexa score now -3.5! I have had 2 neck surgeries and now lower back issues, but worst of all I have been in a walking cast for 6 months!! Now they want me to take Forteo!! I’m scared to death after reading all the side effects! Has anyone out there had a positive experience with it?? Thanks for any input!!

  • I have taken Fortical for years. I am a Heparin patient. I found the Fortical spray. … Generic Name: calcitonin-salmon -to be helpful. I need the Heparin and in time the Heparin takes more than the Fortical can give back. For many reasons i was off food sources of calcium for going on 10 years, using only the Vitamin form of Calcium – high dose – and that contributed to more bone loss. But overall it has held. I have no side affects from the nasal spray and have taken it for around 10 some years. That plus food source calcium should, hopefully turn the tables on bone loss if you are not a Heparin patient. I am on bio- identical post menopausal hormones and that has been good for me. I am not a cancer patient and have not history in our family. My Dr makes me get all the cancer work ups each year if I want my RX for hormones. I am 68 YO. I am a Lyme patient since 1989. I have had a knee replacement and bunion surgery on each foot. I do what I can at the gym and stretch. I am still at Osteopenia. Good Luck.

  • I have just been diagnosed with severe osteoporosis (-4.8 ) after a bad fall resulted in a vertebral compression fracture. Because my t score is so bad I have been taking Alendronic Acid since April, fortunately I have no bad side effects. I have always walked miles a day and done stretching exercises but obviously this was not enough. I had blood tests which all came back normal . I am adding supplements and strength exercises in the hope they will help make a difference.

  • I am took DEXA last yr told I was -1.0 T score osteopenia, at 64. Now at life screening heel only was told 1.3 or -1.3 not sure which, is that worse or better if no minus? I have degenerative arthritis tissue & bone worn down in L knee worse. I started running in grass only, using spring foot inserts seem to help a lot. I felt like I couldn’t move run at all before, thank now can. Only run maybe 2-3x a wk OR about 15mins, gets my heart rate up to 82 beats(usually I am 60 or less at rest). Any web site to give weight training pictures I can do on my own? I can t afford trainer. Any retired free trainers? I swim & use Jacuzzi helps a lot when I have pain in knees or flat feet also have plantar fascia. thanks to JESUS He saves my soul & promises a new body one day I cant wait!!! thanks

  • My score two years ago was -3.50. All I was told was go to Theraphy / I didn’t. I had been many times just to pass off problem. I was never explained to about the danger of the score and supposedly a great Orthopaedic surgeon!!! I now am told to have test by family Dr. and score is 1-4.85… Why would an Orthopaedic Dr. Not explain??? What do I do now at age 70 ? I suffer daily from back pain but I thought due to cervical disc surgery on C234 was the reason but mid npback now! I am so upset over the first ( supposedly great Dr. ) doing nothing!!!! I don’t know who to believe or trust!!! Why run the bone scan if no answers or recommendations ????

  • Hi, this weekend is pleasant in favor of me, as this moment i am
    reading this wonderful educational piece of writing here at my home.

  • I’m a 56 year old woman with hypothyroid. My bone density results are:
    Lumbar Spine – total bone mineral density 0.767 gm/cm2 (T score -2.5 and Z score -1.4) Osteoporosis, fracture risk High.
    Left hip – total bone mineral density is 0.794 gm/cm2 (T score -1.2 and Z score -0.5) Osteopenia – fracture risk increased. Would you take the prescribed medicine with these results. I have read so many horrible side effect and as of now, I don’t have any problems. I know taking the meds are suppose to help but after reading some of these blogs and hearing meds didn’t help, I’m not sure what to do?

  • Thank you Ladies…we need each other, we need to share information…many of us are panicked, confused
    about what direction to take, suffer from a sever lack of trust in drug companies which is justified. Sharing our experiences is empowering .

  • I have worked out for three years did the protein mix the vitamins and I did it 5 days a week actually I’ve been working out since my 40s I’ve always been active in my 30s and in my twenties now I’m 59 and I’ve been diligent on the vitamin D and all that calcium foods eating properly and yet my bone density declines and it hasn’t gone up so what kind of medication I know you’re not a doctor do you think is best on the market I chose Tymlos which I’ll see the neurologist in May . And if you have any suggestions would be great

  • I’m 77 yo woman, 165 lbs., with DXA Bone Density Scan showing osteopenia measurements showing increased risk for fracture in lumbar spine, as well as measurements showing high risk for fracture in one hip. When my therapist has me working mildly on several pieces of equipment (eg: treadmill, bike, etc.), the lower end my lower spine has pain going left & right and I feel something that feels like an electric shock when I walk and when I sit and attempt to stand up. What’s going on and what should I NOT be doing?

  • I am a small active 71 year old postmenopausal woman. My L Spine T score is 2.1 and my hip T score is -0.2.
    Should i find things to do to elevate the hip score?

  • I studied the hydrofluorosilicic acid they the City water depts in the USA add to our city water for ,tooth decay…..the chemical action of that fluroide ion is what has caused my osteoporosis ,hypothyroidism… blocks the bone functioning and enamel making mechanisms of our bones, teeth and blocks thyroxine from being made in our thyroids and makes us obese and blocks Iodine from being absorbed in our thyroid gland which without it our cells to not have that hormone to function either… I have Osteoporosis which is improving with natural and homeopathic and coral Calcium water . Yes I take some calcium , and I eat alot of Organic Cauliflower which is high Calcium. I refuse to drink fluoridated water. or to get fluoride treatments for my teeth. Low thyroid will cause yellow teeth by the way. I take extra 74 Trace Minerals. Lots of Magnesium,D-3 ,K-2/MK-7 which without a balanced amt of Ca/Mag/and along with K-2 which directs the Calcium inside the bones and teeth and away from the blood stream which with high calcium levels in your :hot blood it I think causes hardening of the arteries and that is why doctors prescribe Calcium blockers …which I would rather take K-2 so it takes it or directs it my bones …..and K-2 is not the clot forming Vitamin K either. The Medical and Dental System we know is a very narrow minded powerful system in the USA who will not even try natural ways of healing because they can’t make money on healing the patients they have try drugs that treat the symptoms and then which end up making the person more sicker or their organs get shut down over time and they die……that is how MD.s make money on creating disease for profit……they may not fully realize that but its true if you take an objective look at what they do for our health …..which is nothing …other than tell us what not to do , without telling us what to take in the natural realm. that is what I have done for my health and for me I am better for it and my Dexa scan proved it…take care …FYI if you want more info on concerns about Fluoride uses and harms…..go to the website /or The Fluoride Action Network……

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