How to interpret your bone density test score

Written by laura scholz
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A bone-density test, also called a densitometry or DEXA scan, is a way to determine your risk for osteoporosis, a disease that causes bones to become more fragile and increases their likelihood of breaking. A bone-density test measures bone mineral content, or the number of grams of calcium and other bone minerals that are in each bone segment. The greater the bone density, the less likely the bone is to break. Bone-density tests are recommended for women ages 65 and older, or those 60 and younger who have an increased risk of osteoporosis. The results are reported as two different scores, the T-score and Z-score. Learning to interpret your bone-density test score will help you determine your level of risk for osteoporosis.

Skill level:


  1. 1

    Look at your T-score, which measures your bone density compared to that of a normal, healthy adult your age. The T-score is the number of units, or standard deviations (SD), the separate your particular bone density from your age group's standard. Above average is -1 or more. That means your bones are strong and healthy, and you have very low risk of osteoporosis.

  2. 2

    Look carefully at a T-score between -1 and -2.5. This score indicates osteopenia, or-below normal bone density, which puts you at risk ofosteoperosis.

  3. 3

    Be wary of a T-score below -2.5. This score means that you have osteoporosis. You doctor will advise you of the best treatment options for your condition.

  4. 4

    Consider your Z-score, which is the number of standard deviations above or below the normal figure for someone of your age, gender, weight, race and ethnicity. The Z-score helps determine if something other than ageing is causing abnormal bone loss.

  5. 5

    Take note if your Z-score is less than -1.5, which indicates that factors other than age are causing your low bone mass. Your physician will then help you treat these underlying conditions.

Tips and warnings

  • Consult your physician if you have any questions about your bone-density test score.
  • To help prevent osteoporosis, get your recommended daily units of calcium and Vitamin D, engage in regular weight-bearing exercise, avoid smoking and excessive alcohol consumption, and limit your caffeine intake.

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