Find out if you’re at risk for osteoporosis
Osteoporosis is a “silent” disease. It usually isn’t recognized until a fracture happens. In fact, many spinal fractures don’t have obvious symptoms. People may seek help for back pain or discomfort without recognizing these as warning signs of a possible fracture. That’s why if you’re a woman over 50, it’s important to find out if your bones are getting weaker before a fracture happens.
Measuring Your Bone Mineral Density
In women over 50 who are postmenopausal, the main test for osteoporosis is a bone mineral density test. Bone mineral density, or BMD, is how much bone mineral, such as calcium, is in your bones. Low bone density means your bones are more porous, or airy.
One common test doctors use to determine bone density is a dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry scan — also called a DXA scan or DEXA scan. The result of a DXA scan is a T-score, which is an early predictor of fracture risk. Your doctor can give you a DXA scan, or may send you to a hospital or separate location to get one.
Along with a DXA scan, a doctor may use the fracture risk assessment tool (FRAX®). FRAX incorporates risk factors such as family history, fracture history and more.
T-scores compare a woman’s BMD with the average BMD of young, healthy women. If you haven’t had a fracture, T-scores can tell you how much you are at risk — and prompt you to talk about osteoporosis treatment options with your doctor.
|T-SCORE||WHAT IT MEANS|
|-1 and above||Normal|
|-2.5 to -1||Osteopenia, or low bone mass|
|Less than -2.5||Osteoporosis|
|Less than -2.5 and a fracture||Severe Osteoporosis|
In postmenopausal women, certain fractures—like hip or spinal fractures—are a sign of osteoporosis no matter what the T-score is.
Often, there are no warning signs for osteoporosis until a fracture happens. However, osteoporosis is preventable and treatable. Getting your BMD measured is a good way to find out if you have low bone mass, or osteopenia, which may increase your risk for future fractures.