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What is bone density?

Your bones are made of living tissue. To keep them strong, your body breaks down old bone and replaces it with new bone. But when more bone is broken down than replaced, you lose bone density, also called bone mass. Bone density is a measure of the amount of calcium and other minerals in bone. Bones containing more minerals are denser. They tend to be stronger and less likely to fracture (break).

Losing bone density can weaken your bones. In some cases, it can lead to osteoporosis. This is a disease which can make your bones more likely to break. Low bone density that is not low enough to be osteoporosis is sometimes called osteopenia.

What can make you lose bone density?

Your bones become less dense as you age. Other factors can also make you more likely to lose bone mass, such as:

Not everyone who has low bone mass gets osteoporosis, but they are at higher risk for developing it.

Is there a test to measure your bone health?

A bone density scan 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 low bone density
  • Whether you have osteoporosis, a disease that makes your bones weak
  • Your risk for breaking bones
  • Whether your osteoporosis treatment is working

How can I keep my bones strong?

To help keep your bones strong and help prevent osteoporosis, the best thing to do is to eat a healthy diet rich in calcium and vitamin D. Getting regular physical activity, limiting alcohol, and not smoking can also help. In some cases, your health care provider may prescribe medicines to prevent osteoporosis.

NIH: National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases

Source: U.S. National Library of Medicine, MedlinePlus


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