Bone Density Testing Secret 2: What's up with T and Z scores?
How to Understand Bone Density Score
If you have had a bone density test, knowing how to interpret and understand the results can be important to your health and your peace of mind. Follow the steps below to learn how to understand your bone density score.
Bone Density Test
Bone density tests are often performed on post-menopausal women and others with potentially weak skeletons to estimate the likelihood of breaking bones. The test is a standard screen for osteoporosis among elderly women, but your doctor may also order a bone density scan if you have recently undergone an organ or bone marrow transplant, taken certain steroid medications long-term, recently broken a bone, experienced a dip in certain hormone levels, or lost height. The tests provide a reading of the strength of your bones based on the presence of calcium and other minerals in the bone.
Understand the differences between peripheral and centralized bone scans.Besides cost and ease of screening, these tests also vary in accuracy. Some physicians will start with the peripheral test and only conduct the centralized test if the first screen indicates poor bone density.
- Peripheral machines are small and portable, and they check bone density on the periphery of your skeleton, such as finger bones or the heel. They are much cheaper but not always a good indicator of bone health in bones that are the most likely to break.
- Centralized bone scans involve a large X-ray machine with a movable arm that will scan different parts of your skeleton while you lie on a padded table. This machine tests bone density at your hip, lower back, and forearms to get a good measure of the strength of bones that are most likely to break in a slip or fall.
Know the purpose of a bone density test.Most individuals receive bone density scans to check for signs of osteoporosis.
- Bone density scans are often used to detect your individual risk of bone fracture and your personal chance of developing osteoporosis if you do not currently have the condition.
- Bone density scans can also be used to monitor the effectiveness of osteoporosis treatments.
Bone Density Test Results
Most bone density scans provide 2 separate scores: T-scores and Z-scores. Each score indicates a different measure of bone health and can tell you information about the strength of your bones compared to healthy individuals and other people of the same background as you. These give you an indication of how your bone density compares to the ideal as well as to the expected density for people in your life situation.
Evaluate your T-score.T-scores are typically reported in terms of standard deviations from the mean bone density score for young, healthy adults of your gender. The number indicates how close or how far your bone density measure is from the average.
- If your T-score is -1, 0, or a positive number, your bone density is considered normal and healthy.
- If your T-score is between -1 and -2.5, your score indicates that you may be at risk of osteoporosis. Your bone density is lower than average and you may have osteopenia, which can lead to osteoporosis.
- If your T-score is below -2.5, you likely have osteoporosis. Your bones are likely weak, brittle, and prone to breaks from falls or even from some regular activities.
Evaluate your Z-score.This score gives a reading of your bone density in comparison with other individuals of your weight, sex, racial or ethnic background, and age.
- If your Z-score is -1, 0, or a positive number, your bone density is comparable to that of other people of your demographic characteristics.
- If your Z-score is -2 or below, your bone density is worse than average for people of your demographic characteristics. This result points to the possibility that there may be a cause of your bone loss other than aging; you may need additional testing and treatment to delay or prevent additional loss of bone density.
Discuss Bone Density with Health Professionals
If you do not understand your bone density score or if your score indicates substantial bone density loss, it is essential to discuss your results with a health professional. If you are young or currently healthy, it is also important to discuss bone health with a professional to understand your personal risk of bone density loss. In many cases, simple preventative steps can dramatically reduce your likelihood of experiencing bone loss and fracture, even with some hereditary risks. Physicians, nurses, dietitians, and geriatric or orthopedic specialists can give you advice about improving bone health through diet, exercise, and supplements or medication when necessary.
Ask how to prevent bone density loss.Even if you have a normal or healthy bone density score, you may wish to discuss ways to protect and promote bone health through diet, exercise, and calcium supplements or multi-vitamins.
- Men and women ages 18 to 50 need an average of 1000mg of calcium and 1000 to 4000 IU of vitamin D each day. Women over 50 and men over 70 should up their calcium intake to 1200mg per day through supplements or a targeted diet.
- Get calcium from supplements or green leafy vegetables, low-fat dairy products, canned fish with bones, and fortified juices or cereals. Vitamin D is necessary for your body to absorb calcium; your daily needs can be met through sunshine and supplements or fortified foods such as dairy or orange juice.
Discuss your bone health before it is necessary.If you have relatives with osteoporosis or who frequently experience bone fractures, or if you are otherwise at risk for bone density loss, it is important to discuss bone health with a professional while you are still healthy.
- Be sure to reach your recommended daily intake each day and participate in regular exercise to promote bone health. With early steps toward bone density maintenance, many individuals can prevent osteoporosis in old age.
Ask whether further testing may be necessary.If your Z-score is very low or if you only received a peripheral screen that indicated bone density loss, discuss what type of further testing you may need.
- If you have very low bone density, your doctor may recommend tests for hyperparathyroidism or another bone scan to confirm osteoporosis. Hyperparathyroidism may result from too much calcium in the blood or a second condition causing a calcium deficit in your whole body.
- Depending on your dietary habits and other health information, your physician may check for vitamin or mineral deficiencies.
QuestionWhat does osteoporotic mean?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerOsteoporosis, which literally means porous bone, is a disease in which the density and quality of bones is reduced. As bones become more porous and fragile, the risk of fracture is greatly increased. The loss of bone occurs progressively.Thanks!
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How can my t-score be -1.6 and hip 0.4?
At what age should I start taking bone supplements?
What is a normal T score for a woman over 65 years?
- Once you are aware of your bone density test results, you can take measures to promote bone health and prevent broken bones according to your individual need.
- Especially in post-menopausal women, bone density can decline with age unless calcium supplements or other dietary measures are taken to support bone health.
- If you have questions, try calling the physician who performed the scan or the laboratory telephone number listed on your score report.
- The bone density scans emit a small amount of radiation, but the amount is considerably less than a standard X-ray and is highly unlikely to cause any harm.
- If you have a low bone density score, it is essential to take measures to prevent further bone density loss so that you are less likely to break bones during regular activities or falls.
Video: Bone Density Test And T-Score, What Are These?
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