Bone density or Bone Mineral Density (BMD) is the number of minerals present in your bones. One can also understand it as mineral mass per unit volume of the bone. Imaging techniques such as X-rays are used to measure bone density, where the optical density of a bone segment is measured, and accordingly, the mineral density is inferred.
Bones form the primary skeletal framework of the body and are extremely important to ensure proper movement and locomotion. Bone health is crucial for the well-being of every human being. However, a woman must compulsorily focus on her bone health due to their more petite bone frame with higher chances of low bone density.
Low Bone Density in Women
Low bone mineral density is a major cause of diseases like Osteoporosis that is now one of the major public health concerns. The occurrence of Osteoporosis is common in women. Though the data states that Asian women are at higher risk, doctors worldwide are warning women and helping them safeguard their bones at an early age.
Most women above 50 years of age experience a low bone mineral density and subsequently fall prey to very painful Osteoporosis.
In their lifetime, both men and women attain a peak bone mass and bone density during their adolescence period. However, the bone density decline occurs faster in women than in men. As their age advances towards the pre-menopausal phase, the bone density goes downhill. This decline is gradually accelerated, and bone density is rapidly lost. Timely assessment can help in the strategic planning of a decent medical map to treat Osteoporosis and help women lead better lives.
Towards the end of their reproductive life, a significant change in the gonadal hormone profile is observed in women. The primary observable change is the drastic reduction in the estrogen level just before menopause and during the menopausal years. Estrogen plays reproductive roles in the women’s body and has a significant role in bone consolidation and bone tissue metabolism. With the significant reduction in estrogen levels, bone mineral deposition is compromised, and a rapid decline in bone mineral density becomes evident.
Before the attainment of Osteoporosis, women go through another clinical condition called osteopenia, where the bone density levels are lower than normal but not as low as in Osteoporosis. Along with the normal hormonal causes, one may also suffer from low mineral density due to improper diet.
How is Bone Density Measured?
Bone density is measured through a clinical test termed – “Bone Density Test”. It is used to quantitatively determine bone density and indicate whether a person has a risk for the development of Osteoporosis. Bone density test includes using XRay to quantitatively measure the presence of calcium and other salts in a particular bone segment. Doctors may choose the bones segment for a density test from any section of the body. However, it is preferably performed on the hip region and spinal cord bones.
The Necessity of Bone Density Test
You might be thinking, is it necessary to conduct a bone density test, or how effective can this test be to evaluate the status of bones. Well, the bone density test is one of the most effective and scientific ways to measure the concentration of salts in the bone. The data obtained gives valuable insight into the current condition of the bone’s biochemical status and can also predict whether the person has any future risk regarding the development of bone disorders.
- A bone density test is used to evaluate the existing concentration of minerals in the bone quantitatively
- This data helps to determine whether a person has any ensuing risk of developing Osteoporosis. If Osteoporosis already exists, the data of this test helps to guide the treatment for Osteoporosis.
- The measure of bone density also helps to evaluate the condition of any broken or fractured bone
What are the Implications of a Bone Density Test Result?
Bone density tests are usually recommended to people facing immense pain in their bones and joints, who have a broken or fractured bone, are going through fluctuations in the hormonal level, or are subjected to regular intake of certain medications.
Bone density tests are a part of compulsory routine check-ups in women right from middle age. Because it is during this time, women have considerable turmoil in their existing hormonal profile. It contributes to the loss of bone density and subsequent development of Osteoporosis in women. The bone density tests are in the form of two specific scores – T scores and Z scores.
T score of bone density results depicts a comparison of the patient’s bone density with the standard normal levels of bone density that is expected to occur in a younger same-sex individual.
|-1||Normal Bone Density|
|-1 to – 2.5||Bone density below normal and indicative of the development of osteoporosis. Could indicate the prevalence of osteopenia|
|Below -2.5||Very low bone density and the definite indication of osteoporosis prevalence|
Similarly, the Z scores also indicate the comparison of standard deviations of the bone density score of the patient from the normal scores. Both these scores are used to assess the bone density of an individual and are crucial indicators of bone health. Physicians also decide on the need for further tests and medical processes based on these scores.
The Z score on the bone density report compares an individual’s bone density to people of the same age and gender. So, if you are a 50-year-old woman, the Z score results from the average bone density of various other women of the same age.
It is crucial to note that since menopausal women are more susceptible to low bone density, they must always seek the T score to know the actual condition. The Z score, in their case, might not be preferred since most of the women of the same age go through low bone density issues.
Limitations of Bone Density Test
It may seem like a bone density test is the ultimate way to determine whether your bones are doing well or not, but it is not true. There are certain limitations and shortcomings of bone density test that can be enlisted as follows:
- There is usually no particular norm regarding the source of the bone to be used for the test. Many physicians suggest choosing a segment of the forearm, whereas some may prefer monitoring a segment of the hip bone. This discrepancy creates ambiguity in the test results.
- The results of the bone density test cannot reveal the cause of the abnormality of any is detected through the results. Your t scores and z scores may depict a low bone density, but it is impossible to understand the underlying cause of the same from this test. Hence, these tests do not provide complete information regarding the abnormality of the patient.
- The bone density test is not applicable for people who already have skeletal structural deformities. If you previously suffer from arthritis or such conditions, the test results may be ambiguous and cannot form a basis for any detection or further medical processes.
- Bone density test exposes the patient to the risk of radiation used during the test. Though the radiation used for the bone density test is minimal, there is a risk from the X-ray used during the test. This is why bone density tests are not recommended to pregnant women.
The Process of Bone Density Test
The bone density test is painless and convenient. However, there are specific rules one needs to follow before the test, such as avoiding any calcium intake 24 hours before the test. Usually, a patient is asked to lie down on a flat platform that is preferably padded. A mechanical arm shall pass over your body just as is done in X-Ray. You will not feel any pain, and virtually it is feeling less. Bone density tests are generally performed on bones that have the highest tendency to get fractured or broken, such as bones near the hip joint or the spinal bones.
Nowadays, small portable machines are used to conduct a bone density test on certain bones of the body, such as wrists or fingers (those places that can be easily accessed or, in other words – the extremities of your skeletal musculature).
Ailing health of bones with advancing age is a common problem and a growing concern. To keep your bones healthy, you must resort to a healthy lifestyle and take care of your skeletal musculature as much you care for the rest of your body. Here are a few tips to keep your bones fit, healthy and fine:
- Have a balanced diet comprising of all essential nutrients. Fad diets, weight-loss diets are very much trending in recent days. However, they are not always effective, and one of the worst things they do is deprive your body of certain particular nutrients that could be beneficial for your bones. Remember to include plenty of vegetables and proteins in your diet to keep your bone mass optimum and prevent the bone density from falling below optimum levels.
- Include regular exercise in your schedule. For bone health upliftment, strength and resistance training are quite beneficial. These exercises help keep the bones healthy, maintain their strength, and protect bone health at all ages.
- The last but most important step to avoid bone density imparities is to include enough calcium in your diet because that will ultimately keep your bone density and overall bone health ideal.