As people age, the body sometimes reabsorbs calcium and phosphate from the bones causing them to weaken. The loss of essential minerals in the bones or weakened blood vessels carrying nutrients can lead to brittle bones, osteoporosis, and even breaks. It’s often hard to be aware of bone loss until a fracture has occurred.

Here is some important information to keep in mind about bone mineral density and how to find out if you’re at risk for bone loss.

Why Is Bone Mineral Density Important?

Doctor discusses x-ray with patient

Bone Mineral Density (BMD) is the amount of calcium and other minerals present in an area of your bone. It is a good idea to be aware of bone mineral density as you age to take preventative measures and slow down the loss of minerals from the bones before too much damage has been done.

Studies have shown that osteoporosis may indicate a higher risk for other health issues. For example, women with osteoporosis are at 3.9 times increased risk¹ of heart disease or other cardiovascular events.

Are you concerned about bone loss? Contact one of our medical professionals today to set up an appointment for a bone density scan. 

What Does Bone Mineral Density Mean?

Bone density refers to the ratio of weight compared to the volume of your bones. A bone mineral density test compares your bone density, or bone mass, to the bone density of a person of the same age and sex you are. The heavier your bones, the stronger they are.

To truly understand a person’s bone density, other factors must be taken into consideration, such as:

  • Age, sex, and height
  • Physical maturity
  • Family history
  • A physical examination

Bone density is just one aspect of a person’s health, but it can help paint a picture of their overall wellbeing.

Why Is Bone Density Measured?

Doctor explaining X-ray to patient

There are several reasons a doctor may suggest a bone density scan, including:

1. Prevention

Bone density scans can be used as a preventative measure to help a person reduce the likelihood of injury from breaking bones. Whether you’re an athlete or just an average person going through day-to-day life, it’s often helpful to know the risk of breaking a bone.

2. Osteoporosis Diagnosis

It’s crucial to know if you’re dealing with osteoporosis. Treatments can help you build back some of the missing bone density before more severe complications arise. Your doctor will likely want to periodically repeat a bone density test if you are diagnosed with osteoporosis. 

3. Treatment Efficiency

A bone density scan may also help doctors understand if treatments are working. After diagnosing bone loss or osteoporosis, it’s important to monitor improvement to ensure the prescribed course of action is working.

Who Should Get a Bone Density Test?

It is recommended that all women age 65 and older² get a bone density test, as well as women under age 64 that have gone through menopause. While it’s more common for women to develop osteoporosis due to a sudden drop in hormones after menopause, men can also experience osteoporosis. 

As we age, our body becomes less efficient at replacing lost bone. Risk factors that increase the chances of bone loss may include:

  • Use of certain medications (such as steroids)
  • Having rheumatoid arthritis
  • Smoking
  • Low body weight
  • Heavy drinking
  • Presence of disorders associated with osteoporosis
  • Having a parent who broke a hip
  • Allergic reactions to foods with calcium (milk)

Additionally, if you notice a loss of height or bone breaks that take a long time to heal, your doctor may recommend a test to see if bone loss is the culprit.

Are you at risk for developing osteoporosis? Contact Preventative Diagnostic Center today to schedule a bone density test.

What Can You Expect During a Bone Mineral Density Test?

Bone density spine results

When you have a bone density mineral test performed, there will be a few steps you will need to follow, which may include:

  1. Lie down – You will be asked to lie down on your back on an examination table. 
  2. Remain still – You must remain very still as the BDM machine is passed over your body. 
  3. Bone areas will be scanned – Your doctor will determine what parts of your body need testing, but this usually includes your forearms, femurs, spine, and hip bones. 
  4. Wait for the scan to be completed – The scan only takes about 20 minutes, and you won’t feel anything while the test is being performed. 
  5. X-Ray images are given to an expert to interpret – It could take a few days for results to be determined.

Most tests to measure bone density are completed with a BDM machine or low-dose CT scanner, but some offices use ultrasound technology to determine your bone density.

What Happens If I Have Low Bone Mineral Density?

A diagnosis of osteopenia (the beginning stages of osteoporosis) or osteoporosis means that your bones are more fragile than they should be, and therefore you’re more likely to break a bone. Your doctor will work with you to develop a treatment plan and preventative measures to help you live life to the fullest in a safe and healthy way.

Sometimes your body may be forced to use calcium resources in your bones if you’re not getting enough nutrients from your diet. Making appropriate changes to what you eat and living a healthy lifestyle can make a big difference in your overall bone health.

Schedule A Bone Density Scan With the Preventative Diagnostic Center

Woman suffering from leg pain

While you may have never broken a bone or have any cause for concern when it comes to your bone health, a bone density computed tomography (CT) scan can help uncover a bone mineral deficiency before it becomes a problem. 

If you’re concerned about your bone health, consider getting a bone density scan to help uncover any possible issues with bone loss. The medical professionals at the Preventative Diagnostic Center in Las Vegas are here to help stay healthy. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.

Sources:

¹West, S., O’Donnel, E. (26 March 2018) Cardiovascular disease and bone loss—new research in identifying common disease pathophysiologies and predictors. AME Medical Journal. Retrieved 7 April 2022.

²U.S Department of Health and Human Services. (8 July 2021). Get a Bone Density Test. Retrieved 7 April 2022.