Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

Osteoporosis Diagnosis and Risk Factors

Osteoporosis Prevention and Management

In scoring your BMD test, your bone density is compared to two standards: "age matched" and "young normal." The age-matched reading (Z-score) compares your bone density to the "norm" for your age, sex and size. The young normal reading (T-score) compares your density to the average bone density of a healthy young adult woman.

Your reading will help your health care professional identify where you score within ranges of normal and to determine whether you are at risk for fracture. Generally, the lower your bone density, the higher your risk for fracture. However, your BMD score will be taken into account along with your personal health history, osteoporosis risks and lifestyle, including whether you exercise and are getting adequate calcium. By weighing all of these factors, your health care professional can determine if osteoporosis poses a significant threat for you in the years ahead.

Some tests for osteoporosis risk, such as those available at community health fairs, provide a starting point for assessing your bone health — but definitely require follow-up. If you have one of these types of tests, be sure to discuss the results with your health care professional, especially if your results indicate low bone density.

According to the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists' 2001 Medical Guidelines for Clinical Practice for the Prevention and Management of Postmenopausal Osteoporosis, the BMD test is recommended:

  • for risk assessment in perimenopausal or postmenopausal women who have risk factors for fractures and are willing to consider available interventions. "Perimenopause" is a term applied to the several years preceding menopause.
  • in women who have x-ray findings that suggest osteoporosis
  • in women beginning or receiving long-term glucocorticoid therapy or other drugs associated with bone loss
  • in all adult women with symptomatic hyperparathyroidism or other diseases or nutritional conditions associated with bone loss in whom evidence of bone loss would result in adjustment of management
  • for establishing skeletal stability and monitoring therapeutic response in women receiving treatment for osteoporosis
  • in all women 40 years old or older who have sustained a fracture
  • in all women beyond 65 years of age

Medicare and many commercial insurers pay for BMD testing for individuals at risk or already suffering from osteoporosis.

Copyright 2003 National Women's Health Resource Center Inc. (NWHRC).