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Decoding your bone health scores: understanding DEXA scans, T Scores and Z Scores

Because we can’t see our bones, we must rely on scans to show their strength and density. In fact, the bone thinning condition osteopenia and its more advanced disease form osteoporosis can only be accurately diagnosed with a Dexa scan. But what is that exactly? And, more to the point, when you get the results back from your scan, what do the T scores and Z scores mean?

Understanding Dexa Scans

Firstly, DEXA stands for Dual-Energy X-ray Absorptiometry with this type of scan the most common tool used to assess bone density and overall bone health. It involves a painless X-ray examination of specific bones, usually the hip and spine. The result is provided as a numerical measurement of your bone mineral density (BMD), expressed as a T Score.

T Scores and what they mean

T Scores are the main figures on your Dexa scan report. They represent how your bone density compares to that of a healthy young adult of the same gender and the scale is measured in standard deviations (SD).

  • A T Score of -1 and above means your bone density is considered normal
  • A T Score between -1 and -2.5 means you may have osteopenia, a condition where bone density is lower than normal
  • A T Score of -2.5 and below means you have osteoporosis, a disease characterised by low bone density and an increased risk of fractures

Z Scores and what they mean

In addition to T Scores, some reports include Z Scores. Z Scores compare your bone density to individuals of the same age, gender and size as you. In this way they give a more ‘realistic’ picture of your bone health and can also help determine if factors other than ageing are contributing to your bone health. A Z Score significantly below average may warrant further investigation as it shows that you don’t have ‘good bones for your age’ and intervention is needed.

Bone Mineral Density numbers and what they mean

The final number you may be given is your bone mineral density which is a crucial indicator of your current and future bone health. Low bone density increases the risk of fractures, especially in older adults and usually correlates to low T Scores and Z Scores. You can have low BMD and not yet have osteopenia or osteoporosis.  But don’t be complacent as low bone mineral density and thinning bones is progressive. If you don’t do anything pro-active to prevent further decline, your bones will deteriorate over time.

How do I improve the numbers?

Understanding the numbers in a Dexa scan, including T Scores and Z Scores, is vital for assessing your bone health and risk of osteoporosis. It’s important to realise that whatever your age and however fragile your bones, you CAN build bone mineral density naturally and effectively.

Your first line of defence for strong, resilient bones is to address your lifestyle choices: eat well, regularly engage in weight-bearing exercise, stop smoking, limit alcohol consumption, manage stress and sleep well.

Out with the old, in with the new

There are two ways to improve your bone health numbers.  Firstly, you can reduce the bone turnover – the rate at which your old bone is broken down and removed. Common medications essentially work to slow down bone turnover in a bid to reduce the risk of fractures. But the reality is these medications hinder the removal of old bone tissue without promoting the formation of new bone tissue. This can result in bones that are fragile and prone to fractures.

The second and far better way to boost your bone density is to encourage the development of fresh new bone tissue by building new bone matrix in a natural and effective way to enhance bone strength. At the same time, you’ll need to get rid of the old brittle bone.

This process of achieving a balance between bone break down (bone resorption) and bone formation is called bone remodelling.

Focusing on building new bone matrix through a healthy lifestyle is an effective and natural way to maintain strong and resilient bones as you age. By taking proactive steps, you can ensure that your bones remain robust and fracture-resistant for years to come.

Calling on collagen

Collagen, often described as the scaffolding of the body, plays a pivotal role in creating new bone tissue and building the framework for healthy bone formation.

As the most abundant protein in the body, collagen forms the structural framework upon which new bone tissue is built. This fibrous protein provides bones with their tensile strength, helping them withstand stress and load-bearing activities. It forms an integral part of the bone matrix alongside minerals including calcium and phosphate. Together they make up the organic component of the bone matrix, giving it flexibility and preventing bones from becoming brittle.

Collagen not only serves as the critical framework for building healthy new bone tissue, it also contributes to bone flexibility and plays a central role in bone remodelling. A balanced diet rich in nutrients that support collagen production, combined with a healthy lifestyle, can help you maintain robust bones and overall bone health. Bioactive Collagen Peptides ® optimised for bone are a surefire way to feed your bones what they need.

By understanding your bone health and actively promoting the formation of new bone matrix through collagen support, you can safeguard your bones as you age – and improve DEXA scan scores and numbers.