As we age, there are many different health tests we undergo to obtain valuable insight about our health. For example, eye exams, hearing tests, blood pressure tests, PSA tests, and colonoscopies. These tests give your doctor important information about various aspects of your health.
Another important health test is known as dual energy x-ray absorptiometry (DEXA), which helps uncover a person’s bone density by providing doctors with a t-score.
This test is easily done while you lay on your back and enter an x-ray machine. The test takes roughly five minutes. Although your entire body will be scanned, the focus is on the lumbar spine, hip, and femoral neck.
Compared to standard x-rays, DEXA collects the information it requires by using only one-tenth of the radiation normally required.
DEXA is considered the gold standard for diagnosing osteoporosis, a bone disease that increases the risk of fractures and breaks. Women are at a higher risk for osteoporosis, so they are more likely to be told to do a DEXA test, but men can have this test done as well.
The information obtained from a DEXA test is known as a t-score and this represents how close you are to the average peak bone density.
The World Health Organization established a classification system for bone density, so you could understand what classifies as healthy and what classifies as osteoporosis.
- A t-score -1 or greater is considered normal for bones
- A t-score between -1 and -2.5 reveals low bone density, known as osteopenia, and is an early sign of osteoporosis
- A t-score of -2.5 or less is a sign of osteoporosis, regardless if you have experienced a broken bone
The best way to prevent a fracture is to know your t-score, which you can determine if you’re over the age of 50. Your score will determine the next steps your doctor recommends. For example, they may offer up lifestyle tips that can help improve bones or prescribe medications to prevent fractures or breaks from occurring.
Knowledge is power and if you don’t know your t-score then you’re putting your bones at serious risk and can experience a break or fracture, which could have possibly been prevented.