Bone mineral density tests

Find out if you should get one

A routine bone mineral density test, or bone mass measurement, detects signs of osteoporosis.1 If detected, your doctor can take steps to help you strengthen your bones. Osteoporosis is a condition that weakens bones and increases the risk of breaks, fractures and other painful symptoms.2

Although osteoporosis is more likely to occur in certain age groups, it can develop in anyone.

Schedule an appointment with your doctor to talk about if you may need a bone mineral density test.

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Who can get osteoporosis?

Everyone's bones lose mass and become thinner and more fragile with age. The National Osteoporosis Foundation recommends3 you have a bone mineral density test if:

  • you're a female over 65
  • you're a female of menopausal age with risk factors
  • you're a post-menopausal female with risk factors
  • you're a male over 70
  • you're a male aged 50–69 with risk factors
  • you break a bone after age 50

Factors that can increase your risk of osteoporosis include:4

  • smoking
  • lack of exercise
  • heavy alcohol consumption
  • not enough calcium and vitamin D
  • extended use of steroid medications
  • a family history of osteoporosis or being of European or Asian descent
  • a history of medical issues that inhibit calcium absorption, such as hyperthyroidism5

What happens during a bone mineral density test?

All of the different types of tests are generally easy and painless. Typically, a person remains fully dressed, and the test takes less than 15 minutes.6 No needles are used.

Some tests can be done in a doctor’s office, while other scans are done at a radiology department or clinic.

Types of tests include:

  • Central DXA (dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry): measures the hip and spine or radius bone in the forearm; uses very little radiation
  • Screening tests, also called peripheral tests: measure the lower arm, wrist, finger or heel; several types of tests are offered

What happens after a bone mineral density test?

  • A positive bone density test score means your bone mineral density is normal or stronger and thicker than average.
  • A negative score means your bone mineral density is weaker and thinner than average.7

Your doctor may use your bone density test score to determine your risk factors for osteoporosis and recommend ways to reduce your chances of breaking a bone, or prescribe medication to treat your osteoporosis.

Take charge of your health

Sign in to MyHumana.com (link opens in new window) for more information about osteoporosis.

To learn more about preventive tests, screenings and positive steps that may improve your health, visit Humana’s MyHealth section.

Visit MyHealth (link opens in new window)

Sources:

  1. https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/bone-density-test/about/pac-20385273(link opens in new window)
  2. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/osteoporosis/symptoms-causes/syc-20351968(link opens in new window)
  3. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/diabetes/in-depth/diabetes/art-20043848(link opens in new window)
  4. https://www.healthline.com/health/osteoporosis-risk-factors#risk-factors(link opens in new window)
  5. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/transcripts/1619_osteoporosis-answers(link opens in new window)
  6. https://www.ucsfhealth.org/tests/001073.html(link opens in new window)
  7. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/healthlibrary/test_procedures/gynecology/bone_density_test_92,P07664(link opens in new window)