Dr. Fatima Munir 22 Jun 2022

Bone density-related disorders are quite common across the world. In fact, a comprehensive analysis of the incidence of osteoporosis among those aged 15–105 (the most common bone density disorder) showed a prevalence of 23.1% in women and 11.7% in men worldwide. Adequate bone density safeguards against osteoporosis and associated risks such as fractures, breaks, and sprains. Additionally, your bones support your muscles and protect your internal organs. Robust bone strength also helps in physically demanding activities (E.g. dancing, hiking, weight training), sports performance, and the rigours of daily life.

What is Bone Density?

Calcium and other minerals in a person's bones indicate their bone density. A variety of factors influence it. In other words, we can say that bone health is determined by bone density. Adequate bone density implies that the bones are healthy and robust. Lower bone density, as in osteoporosis, is the cause of various bone disorders, including fractures.

A DEXA scan, which is a bone density test, can be used to determine your bone mineral density. It is an X-ray that shows the image of your bones in more detail. Bones are examined to see if they are porous, have low mineral density, or are normal.

Several factors can determine your bone health. These are explained in more detail below.

Bone Density Measurement:

Bone density measurement can be done using a few methods. A DEXA scan is an X-ray imaging test that measures bone density. These X-rays identify bones with lower densities. In addition, a CT scan can help determine bone density in the hip or spine. DEXA scan is regarded as the gold standard for the measurement of bone density providing the most accurate picture of a person's bone health.

What Is A Bone Density Test?

Bone density tests are painless, non-invasive procedures.

There are two types of bone density tests.

  1. Central DEXA: It measures the bone density of the spine and hip.
  2. Peripheral DEXA: It measures the bone density of your peripheral body parts such as the arms, legs, fingers, wrists, etc. A peripheral DEXA is less costly than a central DEXA scan and is portable.

How is a bone density test done?

The whole procedure takes less than 15 minutes. You lie completely dressed on a padded surface during the test. Low-dose X-rays are delivered by a machine passing over your body. The test creates a representation of your skeleton.

Patient preparation

Some preventive measures are ensured before performing the test. These are as follows.

  1. Avoid calcium intake 24 hours prior to the X-ray.
  2. Wait at least 7 days if you have been injected with a contrast dye for MRI or CT because the dye can alter test results.
  3. Metal zippers, belts, and buttons are to be removed during the test.

How much does a bone density test cost?

Typically, without health insurance, you can expect to pay $150 to $250, including the doctor's consultation.

How to check bone density at home?

At home, one can check the bone density of peripheral regions such as the wrists and fingers. For this purpose, portable x-ray or ultrasound peripheral devices can be used.

Medical Conditions Revealed By Your Bone Density Test Results

A clinician evaluates bone density test results to rule out various diseases, the most common of which is osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a condition characterized by low calcium deposition in your bones. The bone appears porous and has a high tendency to get fractured.

Who should get tested?

A lot of medical illnesses are related to abnormal bone densities. First, you must know whether you are a candidate to get tested. Consider getting a bone density test if,

  • You are a woman above the age of 65.
  • You are a 50-year-old postmenopausal lady.
  • You are a lady approaching menopause with a high risk of fracturing bones.
  • You are a woman who has already gone through menopause, is younger than 65, and has other risk factors for osteoporosis.
  • You are a 50-year-old male with additional risk factors.
  • You are over 50 and have a bone fracture.
  • You have dropped over 1.5 inches in height since teenage.
  • Your slumped posture has gotten worse.
  • You are experiencing back aches for no apparent reason.
  • You are not pregnant or menopausal, but your periods have stopped or are erratic.
  • You have had an organ transplant.
  • Your Hormone levels have dropped.

Test results:

What does a bone density test show? The answer lies in the DEXA scan scores. After the DEXA scan, you get two scores.

  1. T score
  2. Z score

T score: Your bone density is compared to that of a healthy young adult of the same gender. The score tells whether bone density is average, low, or very low, indicating osteoporosis. A positive score indicates normal bone health, while a negative score indicates a problem.

The T score is defined as follows:

  • Your bone density is normal if it is -1 or higher.
  • -1 to -2.5: You have low bone density, which could lead to osteoporosis.
  • You have osteoporosis if your score is -2.5 or above.

Z score: This score compares your bone mass values with people of the same age, gender, and size. If the value is below -2.5, it indicates that apart from aging, other factors may be affecting your bone mineral density.

Get yourself tested every two years, especially if you are a postmenopausal woman. If you are osteoporotic, the doctor may advise a bone density test every 1 to 2 years.

Does a bone density test show cancer?

Yes, the clinician can opt for a bone scan to visualize any metastatic cancerous cells in the bones.

Does a bone density test show arthritis?

To dispel a common misconception, bone density tests cannot detect arthritis. These tests only reflect bone health, not the joints' status.

Factors That Affect Bone Mineral Density (BMD)

Several factors directly affect the person's bone mineral density. Let's have a look at these factors.

  • Gender is the first factor. Males have better BMD than females. Postmenopausal women suffer from severe bone loss and thus have a high chance of fractures.
  • Age is another decisive factor. With aging, specific body changes at cellular levels alter mineral levels in the body, thus affecting bone strength.
  • If a person suffers from hormonal imbalances such as hyperthyroidism or postmenopausal hormonal switching, there is a higher chance of having lower BMD.
  • A low-calcium diet can lead to decreased bone density, rapid bone loss, and a higher risk of fractures.
  • Physical activity is directly related to bone health.
  • Prolonged tobacco and alcohol use increases bone loss.
  • Eating disorders such as bulimia nervosa or celiac disease can cause bone weakness.
  • Certain medications such as long-term steroid usage and anti-seizure medications can cause bone wasting.

Weight Versus Bone Density

Body weight has a direct relationship with body density. BMI correlates with BMD. BMI, abbreviated as body mass index, is the body weight and height ratio. A low BMI indicates low BMD and an increased risk of fractures, especially in older age.

The usual range of BMI is 18.5 to 24.9. BMI lower than 18.5 can be indicative of poor bone mineral density.

Do Overweight children have higher bone density? Yes, overweight children have higher bone density and have stronger bones that mature earlier. Their bone mineral density tends to be higher than that of normal children of the same age.

Ways To Increase Your Bone  Mineral Density

There are some natural ways to increase your bone mineral density. These are simple and easy steps that help maintain bone health and avoid related issues.

  • Add calcium to your daily routine. The recommended dosage of calcium per day is 1000mg for adults aged between 19 to 50. The same is recommended for men aged 51 to 70. 1200mg is recommended for postmenopausal women.
  • Please take a closer look at your vitamin D levels as it affects calcium absorption. The recommended dosage is 600 international units per day for adults aged between 19 to 70. The dosage increases to 800 IUs after age 71.
  • Does strength training increase bone density? Yes. Spare time for physical activity. It can directly boost bone mineral deposition.
  • Avoid substance abuse.

How to increase bone density after 60?

Many become bedridden or believe it is too late to start healthy activities after age 50 or 60. Although aging affects the body, one should not stop striving for improved health. Sticking to healthy habits described above will undoubtedly benefit your health.


Mineral deposition on the bones, particularly calcium, is referred to as bone mineral density. Clinicians recommend a bone mineral density test, commonly a DEXA scan, to evaluate bone health. A positive value indicates normal bone health, whereas a negative value indicates reduced bone mineral levels.

Low bone mineral density (BMD) is linked to an increased risk of osteoporosis and fractures. Age, gender, menopause, and some drugs can significantly impact bone mineral density.

Try strengthening workouts and increasing your calcium and vitamin D intake to fight mineral deficiencies. Furthermore, substance addiction results in bone thinning. Stick to healthy and active routines to make your bones stronger and healthier.

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About the Doctor:

Dr. Fatima Munir is a Doctor by profession, a freelance content writer, and a researcher. With a penchant for research, she diligently curates facts and the latest literature to guide readers on all matters of health.


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