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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 Densitometry (Bone Density Scan) (American College of Radiology, Radiological Society of North America) Also in Spanish
- Bone Density Testing (Beyond the Basics) (UpToDate)
- Bone Markers (American Association for Clinical Chemistry)
- Bone-Density Tests: When You Need Them - 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
- How Does Physical Activity Help Build Healthy Bones? (National Institute of Child Health and Human Development)
- Osteopetrosis (National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases)
- Side Effects of HIV Medicines: HIV and Osteoporosis (AIDSinfo) Also in Spanish
- Genetics Home Reference: Camurati-Engelmann disease (National Library of Medicine)
- Genetics Home Reference: gnathodiaphyseal dysplasia (National Library of Medicine)
- Genetics Home Reference: juvenile primary osteoporosis (National Library of Medicine)
- Genetics Home Reference: osteoporosis-pseudoglioma syndrome (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)
- Exercise Brings Bone Benefits that Last (National Institutes of Health)
- 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: Clinical characteristics associated with bone mineral density improvement after 1-year...
- Article: Associations between bone-alkaline phosphatase and bone mineral density in adults...
- Article: Associations between trabecular bone score and vertebral fractures in patients...
- 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)