Osteopenia Consider This a Wake-Up Call!
August 02, 2017
Submitted by Elizabeth Madlem, APN, The Bone Health Clinic at Millennium Pain Center
Osteopenia is a term that refers to bone density that is lower than normal, but not as low as osteoporosis. It is of concern because if steps are not taken to correct the condition, it will most likely progress into osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a disease that thins and weakens the bones to the point that they become fragile and break easily. There are no symptoms of osteoporosis until a fracture occurs. Osteoporosis is considered to be a global public health problem and is estimated to affect half of all Americans over age 50.
Like osteoporosis, osteopenia occurs more frequently in post-menopausal women as a result of the loss of estrogen. It can also be exacerbated by lifestyle factors such as inadequate intake of Vitamin D and calcium, lack of exercise, excess consumption of alcohol, smoking, or prolonged use of glucocorticoid medications.
There are many causes for osteopenia, and genetics also plays an important role in a person's bone health. Small framed or thin Caucasian women who are premenopausal often have osteopenia. Osteopenia occurs more frequently in people who do not exercise, or who engage in non-weight-bearing activity, like bicycling or swimming, than in people who participate in weight-bearing activity like walking or running. Weight bearing activity tends to protect or possibly increase bone mineral density.
Osteopenia is often noted in young female athletes. It is one of the three major components of female athlete triad syndrome, along with amenorrhea and disordered eating. Female athletes tend to have lower body weight and lower fat percentage.
The treatment of osteopenia is somewhat controversial because while there is prescription bone-building medication available, not everyone with osteopenia requires medicine. Your doctor will determine this based on your own individual risk factors. Anyone with osteopenia should make certain important lifestyle modifications, including not smoking or drinking excessively. In addition, make sure that you are getting enough calcium and Vitamin D. Calcium and Vitamin D go hand-in-hand — your body cannot absorb calcium if it isn’t getting enough Vitamin D. If you have trouble getting enough calcium or Vitamin D, you may need to take a supplement. Always work with your doctor or health care professional to determine if a supplement is needed.
Like muscle, bone is living tissue that responds to exercise by becoming stronger. The best activity for your bones is weight-bearing exercise that forces you to work against gravity. Some examples include walking, climbing stairs, weight training, and dancing. Regular exercise, such as walking, may help prevent bone loss and will provide many other health benefits.
The diagnosis of osteopenia can be an eye-opening wake-up call to make certain lifestyle changes that are not only important for preventing and treating osteopenia and osteoporosis, but will improve your overall health as well. Osteopenia does not usually reverse, but with the proper treatment, it can be slowed or stabilized.
For more information on osteoporosis, you may contact The Bone Health Clinic at Millennium Pain Center, 309-662-4321. They have a new location at 2406 East Empire St. in Bloomington, next to Orthopedic & Sports Enhancement Center. Elizabeth Madlem is a certified bone health consultant. The clinic provides screening, diagnosis, and a comprehensive treatment plan for people who have or are at risk of developing osteoporosis.
Back to Top