Everything you should know about weak bones

Osteopenia is a condition characterized by low Bone Mineral Density (BMD). People with osteopenia has BMD less than a normal peak value but more than what is needed to be classified under osteoporosis. Osteopenia simply means that you have weak bones and are therefore vulnerable to fractures. In some cases, osteopenia leads to osteoporosis. 

Difference between Osteopenia and Osteoporosis

Osteopenia and osteoporosis are related conditions. Osteoporosis is a more critical condition and it demands immediate attention and treatment. Osteopenia only means that you have risk of developing osteoporosis and your bones are weaker than normal, thereby increasing the risk for bone fractures but the condition is not severe enough to have any considerable impact. However if you are diagnosed with osteopenia, it is better not to delay the treatment.


Osteopenia Symptoms

People who have osteopenia generally do not experience any pain or discomfort and it virtually has no symptoms. Therefore osteopenia / osteoporosis is known as sillent disease.

It is important to note that the bone density of a person reaches its peak level at the age of 30 and it is natural to have lower bone density as one ages. Therefore the healthier your bones are at the age of 30, the less vulnerable you will be to develop osteopenia in old age.

How is Osteopenia Diagnosed?

Osteopenia can be diagnosed by measuring the BMD levels. If your BMD T-score is between -1 and -2.5, you will be categorized as having osteopenia.

There are many ways to test BMD levels but the most accurate and convenient one is DEXA which stands for Dual X ray Absorptiometry. It is more sensitive than the normal x ray and can detect small changes in bone mass density. 

Other tests done for this purpose are peripheral Dual energy X ray Absorptiometry (pDEXA), Quantitative Computed Tomography (QCT) and Quantitative Ultrasound Densitometry (QUS). 

Osteopenia Risk Factors

There are some people who have a higher risk of developing osteopenia or osteoporosis than others. If you fall under this category, it is recommended to get tested and incorporate appropriate measures. Generally, post menopausal women are at a higher risk because of hormonal changes but older men can also develop osteopenia or osteoporosis. The other main risk factors include:

  • Malnourishment and eating disorder
  • Family history of osteoporosis or osteopenia
  • Having medical conditions that require a person to remain bedridden
  • Lack of exercise and stagnant lifestyle
  • Smoking and drinking habits

Treatment and Prevention

If you have been diagnosed with osteopenia and want to stop it for progressing towards osteoporosis or if you are at a high risk for developing osteopenia,  you must consume food that contains calcium and vitamin D to prevent your bone health from depleting. Calcium and vitamin D are abundantly found in milk, eggs, green vegetables, fish oils, salmon and swordfish.  Exposure to sunlight also helps the body in synthesizing Vitamin D, therefore make sure you get out in the sun more often. You also have to do exercise more often.  People with an active lifestyle are at a low risk for developing osteopenia. Weight-bearing exercises like walking, hiking and dancing are better for bones than exercises like swimming. 



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