Understanding your dexa scan results

You have your Dexa scan results You have T score numbers and Z score numbers.

You have pluses ( + ) and/or minuses ( - ) and you have been diagnosed with Osteopenia or Osteoporosis. But it seems a bit confusing. What does it all mean?

You can understand your dexa scan results. And understanding those results is important if you are serious about strengthening your bones. You need to understand exactly where you are NOW if you want to plan to be somewhere else in a year or so.

So let's get to the details.

Ask for a copy of your test results. If You have not done so already, do call your health care provider and ask for a copy, a print out of your dexa scan results and any accompanying images.

It really helps to see the test results, especially if they show the image with the light spots that show a lack ofbone density.

I always ask my health care provider for a copy so I can study it at home. I file my copies for each test so I can compare results from year to year. I find it very motivating to see my results and I review at these papers a few times a year.

Also, I know my health care provider has my best interests at heart but I figure I need time to study my own health records. Sometimes reviewing them at home helps me figure out what questions I want to ask at my next appointment. Then too, having a copy of my records gives me a sense of security because I never have to worry that I misunderstood or forgot some number that was said during an office visit.

But you want to know how to read the report - what it all means.

First, the column marked BMD gives your bone mineral density - the number of grams per centimeter of bone. Numbers of +1.0 or above are good.

Second, the column marked T score shows how your bone mineral density compares with women in their thirties, the peak bone density years. Scores of +1.0 are good. Numbers between +1 and - 1 show normal bone mineral density.

Scores between -1 and -2.5 indicate Osteopenia (thin bones).

Less than -2.5 indicate Osteoporosis (porous bones) , eg. - 2.7, -3.0 etc. And -3.0 shows greater Osteoporosis than does - 2.7.

Third, the column marked Z score compares your bone mineral density with others of your own age.

Now, you may be thinking, "Well I am OK when compared with people my own age. Why should I care how I compare with some 30 year old people?"

That is exactly what I thought when I saw my first dexa scan test results. I figured, "My Z scores shows that I have better bone density that most of the women my age. Why should I worry about the T score." Boy that was a mistake - as I figured out later.

When I began to research the history of dexa scans and Osteopenia and Osteoporosis fracture, I realized thatthe T score was very important. You see, it is in our thirties that most of us reach peak bone mass. Andit is when we have peak bone mass that our bones are strongest and least likely to fracture. This group of people in theirthirties are less likely to break their hips or have their vertebrae collapse.

What good does it do us to have bones as strong as those in our age group ( the Z score), if our age group is showing a 40 or 50% fracture rate? The day I realized that it did me NO GOOD to be as good as most women my age, when most women my age were at high risk for fractures is the day I began to understand the importance of improving my T score.

Since that day, I have paid little attention to my Z scores. My aim has been to increase my BMD score and my T- score! And I am happy to say that I have done that. My last dexa scan showed NORMAL bone density!

You can increase your bone density too. This web site is filled with information about ways to increase your bone density.

If you would like to understand more about your dexa scan and how technicians read it, The University of Washington offers material for for technicians. You can view their tutorial about Dexa Scans [Opens in new window.]

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Or you can go right to Osteopenia Treatments