Osteopenia is a specific bone condition when bones are weaker than normal due to decreased bone mineral (calcium and phosphate) density but the situation is not as bad as during osteoporosis. Actually it is pre-osteoporosis when weak bones become prone to fractures.
In very early stages of osteopenia there may be no symptoms. Gradual bone density changes could trigger some symptoms such as neck or low back pain, loss of height, stooped posture and tenderness over long bones.
According to health experts, fractures during osteopenia don’t always cause pain.
Bone density changes are happening while aging (starting in middle age) – bones loose minerals, become weaker with increased risks for breaking. Usually people reach peak bone density at 30-33 – thicker are bones at that age, the longer it takes to develop osteopenia.
Women are more likely to develop osteopenia than men because, in general, women have lower peak bone density and because of hormonal changes during menopause.
Metabolism disturbance or eating disorders could be responsible for damages absorption of vital vitamins and minerals which are important for bone density.
Chemotherapy and radiation often cause bone damages.
Family history is also very important – families with thin members, white or Asian combined with not-healthy lifestyle (absence of sport, smoking, alcohol, fast foods) suffer from osteopenia more often.
Osteopenia risk factors
- Women during premenopause or after menopause (due to declining female hormones),
- Smokers and alcoholics,
- Women with reduced body mass index (underweight),
- Medicated women (steroids, anticonvulsants, protease inhibitors, immune-depressants),
- Family history of osteoporosis,
- Gasdtroenteral disordered which damage food absorption processes,
- Lack of calcium and vitamin D.
Osteopenia is diagnosed using measures of bone mineral density (BMD) – bone density test is the main diagnostic measure. Most accurate test of bone density is dual energy X-ray absorptiometry (DEXA) scan. This test should be done only in very special groups of people:
- Women in menopause (mainly after 65),
- Adults with bone fracture (mainly after 50),
- Adults after chemotherapy and radiation,
- Any person with medical condition associated with bone loss (rheumatoid arthritis),
- Clients who receive bone loss medications (steroids, anticonvulsants, protease inhibitors, immune-depressants).
Patients with bone loss need drugs that lead to bone strengthening (calcium, vitamin D). Some experts recommend bisphosphonates like raloxifene, calcitonin and hormone replacement therapy for postmenopausal women.
Regular physical activities can also prevent and/or treat low bone density walking, jogging, dancing, swimming, biking and some other exercises which can help to make bones stronger.
Healthy food and healthy lifestyle can help reducing bone loss. Best sources of calcium are milk and other dairy products, green vegetables, and calcium-enriched products. Main source of vitamin D is sunlight.
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