In most cases, a doctor will order a bone mass density test because he/she is conscientiously planning ahead so as to spare you from potentially bigger problems down the road; problems that could de-stabilize your skeletal frame in the years ahead.
Other reasons for ordering a bone mass density test may because:
- of your age (pre-menopausal) and your hormone inventory is dwindling
- you’ve had a fracture and he/she suspects your bones are not as strong as they used to be
- he/she found out you’re deficient in calcium, and wanted to know if that deficiency has done any damage to your bones
- you have a family history of osteoporosis
- you smoke, don’t exercise, and consume alcohol
- he/she detects the beginnings of the dowager’s hump
- you were or are bulimic or suffered/suffer from anorexic nervosa
Understanding your Tests
- Here’s a useful bit of information: a bone is a complex, living tissue. The human body has over 200 bones, with a unique role to play in providing structural support for muscles, protecting the vital organs, and storing the calcium required for bone density and strength.
- The “manufacturing” of bones takes place until age 30. As people age, bones begin to break down faster than new bone can be formed. In menopausal women, bone loss accelerates when the ovaries stop producing estrogen.
- When your doctor orders a bone mass density test, he/she can be very specific about what type of test you need, as there are at least four tests for bone health:
- conventional x-rays — this method detects bone loss if 40% of bone has already been lost; it is still used because the technician can peek into the internal fractures that occurred
- single photon absorptiometry — this tests measures bone mineral density in the forearm by determining the absorption rate of gamma rays
- dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry (DXA) — this method measures the spine, and can also measure the hip and femur.
- ultrasound — bone is measured using sound waves. If the bone is thick, the sound waves travel more slowly; if bone mass is thin, the waves travel faster.
If you were toying with the idea of asking your doctor to do a blood test instead of any of the methods above, remember that blood tests only reveal the remodeling activity of bones in the body and do not show the existence and degree of osteoporosis in the body.