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Strong bones are important for your health. A bone mineral density (BMD) test is the best way to measure your bone health. It compares your bone density, or mass, to that of a healthy person who is the same age and sex as you are. It can show
- Whether you have osteoporosis, a disease that makes your bones weak
- Your risk for breaking bones
- Whether your osteoporosis treatment is working
Low bone mass that is not low enough to be osteoporosis is sometimes called osteopenia. Causes of low bone mass include family history, not developing good bone mass when you are young, and certain conditions or medicines. Not everyone who has low bone mass gets osteoporosis, but they are at higher risk for getting it.
If you have low bone mass, there are things you can do to help slow down bone loss. These include eating foods rich in calcium and vitamin D and doing weight-bearing exercise such as walking, tennis, or dancing. In some cases, your doctor may prescribe medicines to prevent osteoporosis.
NIH: National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases
- Bone Mass Measurement: What the Numbers Mean (National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases) Also in Spanish
- Food and Your Bones (National Osteoporosis Foundation)
- Low Bone Density (National Osteoporosis Foundation)
- Osteopenia (American Academy of Family Physicians) Also in Spanish
Diagnosis and Tests
- Bone Density Scan (National Library of Medicine) Also in Spanish
- Bone-Density Tests: When You Need a Test and When You Don't (ABIM Foundation)
Prevention and Risk Factors
- Vitamin D and Calcium Supplementation to Prevent Fractures (U.S. Preventive Services Task Force) - PDF
- Camurati-Engelmann disease: MedlinePlus Genetics (National Library of Medicine)
Statistics and Research
- Baseline Bone Mineral Density Measurements Key to Future Testing Intervals (National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases)
- Genetics of Bone Density (National Institutes of Health)
- ClinicalTrials.gov: Bone Density (National Institutes of Health)
Journal Articles References and abstracts from MEDLINE/PubMed (National Library of Medicine)
- Article: Application of bone turnover markers and DXA and QCT in an...
- Article: Effects of Adolescents' Lifestyle Habits and Body Composition on Bone Mineral...
- Article: Increased risk factors associated with lower BMD in antiretroviral-therapy-naïve HIV-infected adult...
- Bone Density -- see more articles
Find an Expert
- National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases Also in Spanish
- National Institutes of Health Osteoporosis and Related Bone Diseases National Resource Center (National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases)