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What is bone density?

Bone density is a measure of the mass of bone mineral (e.g., calcium) in relation to the volume. It is often used as an indicator of the strength of a bone. Bone density peaks at about 30 years of age then slowly declines. Loss of bone density may cause bones to become brittle or weak. 

What is a bone density test?

A bone density test can be used to determine if you have decreased bone density, which may lead to a condition called osteoporosis. The test can help assess risk for bone fractures and it can be used to monitor treatment for low bone density. The test looks at a portion of a bone, such as your hip bone, using an X-ray. It can then be determined the amount of grams of bone minerals, such as calcium, in the bone. 

What is normal bone density?

When bone density is measured, the test produces a T-score result. This type of result compares your bone mass to what is normal for a healthy young adult. Scores between -1 and +1 are considered normal. Low bone density scores are between -1 and -2.5. Results below -2.5 indicate osteoporosis. 

Can you increase bone density?

We can help improve bone density by consuming calcium rich foods throughout the day. Some calcium rich foods include dairy products, canned fish with bones, and tofu. Consuming adequate vitamin D can help with bone density because vitamin D helps our bodies absorb calcium. Vitamin D is found in fatty fish, eggs, mushrooms, and certain fortified foods. Physical activity can also help build and maintain strong bones, as well as keep your body strong to prevent falls. 

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Photo of Kristin Ricklefs-Johnson

Medically reviewed by:

Kristin Ricklefs-Johnson, Ph.D., RD

Kristin is an RDN who also earned her Ph.D. in Nutrition from Arizona State University with an emphasis on insulin resistance, lipid metabolism disorders, and obesity. She completed her post-doctoral fellowship at Mayo Clinic where she focused on nutrition-related proteomic and metabolic research. Her interests include understanding the exact mechanism of action of various genetic variations underlying individual predispositions to nutrition-related health outcomes. Her goal is to help all individuals prevent chronic diseases and achieve long, healthy lives through eating well.

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