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The best bone density test to prevent osteopenia

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You understand that average bone mass decreases as you get older, and that ignoring this will lead to osteopenia (low bone density) or worse, osteoporosis.

You’ve already determined to put yourself on a course of optimal health and longevity, and that includes a thorough understanding of your bone density to reduce or prevent the risk of fractures. The DEXA (Dual Energy X-Ray absorptiometry) scan is the “gold standard” of bone density tests, providing you with the most accurate measurement of your bone health.

What happens during a DEXA scan?

The scan generally takes 10 to 20 minutes. It’s painless, and the amount of radiation you get from the X-rays the scan uses is low. Unlike some other types of tests, like MRIs or CT scans, you won’t have to lie inside a closed tunnel or ring. Instead, you’ll lie on an open X-ray table and try to stay still as the scanner passes over your body. When the test is over, you’ll be able to go home.

A DEXA scanner is a machine that produces two X-ray beams. One is high energy and the other is low energy. DEXA scan radiation is no different than any other X-Ray procedure, such as at the dentist and there are no DEXA scan side effects. The machine measures the amount of X-rays that pass through the bone from each beam. This will vary depending on how thick the bone is. Based on the difference between the two beams, your doctor can measure your bone density.

Preparation is simple. Avoid metal on clothing (buttons, zippers) and take a calcium supplement no later than 24 hours prior to the exam.

Bone scan results interpretation

For the results of your scan, you’ll get a T-score. It shows how much higher or lower your bone density is than that of a healthy 30-year-old, the age when bones are at their strongest. It shows both your whole body bone density trend, including your spine bone density trend. The lower your score, the weaker your bones are:

* T-score of -1.0 or above = normal bone density

* T-score between -1.0 and -2.5 = low bone density, or osteopenia

* T-score of -2.5 or lower = osteoporosis

Sometimes doctors will give you another DXA scan result -- a Z-score. It compares your bone density to a normal score for a person of your same age and body size.

Who should get a DEXA scan?

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force says people who should get DXA scans for bone density include:

• Women ages 65 or older

• Women ages 60 or older who have a high risk of hip fracture

The DEXA scan is merely the first step. The information will be used to develop a range of programs to help you build spinal bone density, increase your overall bone strength, gain optimal health and increase your longevity.

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