Osteopenia - the basics about this condition
Osteopenia is a condition caused by your losing density to your bones. It means your bones are thinning. (Note: Some people say osteopena or ostepenia but those are not correct. Instead of osteopena or ostepenia, you want to say it this way: os-tea-o-peen-ee-a.)
If you have been diagnosed, the good news is that you do not have as much bone loss as those with Osteoporosis (when bones actually become porous). Still 'thinning bones' is a serious diagnosis and you are wise to learn as much as you can about it. If you do not stop your bone loss, you will soon find you do develop Osteoporosis. And your risk of multiple fractures or a dowagers hump will be high.
Although bone thinning occurs throughout your body, Dexa scans usually measure the bone density in your hips and spine. (If you have concern about your spine there is a special page about Spinal Osteopenia that you can check after reading this page..
Some call Osteopenia and Osteoporosis diseases. But technically they are not diseases. They are not like the flu, measles or pneumonia. You can not 'catch' bone loss. Instead it is often the result of how we live or the result other medical condition or treatments. This web site calls excessive loss a 'condition' - not a disease.
Some people blame menopause. But menopause does not cause it. True, a decrease in hormones after menopause increases bone loss but not everyone gets 'excessively thin bones' after menopause. Those with enough bone mass to start with AND who do 'all the right things' for building new bone, are often exempt from Osteopenia or Osteoporosis after menopause. (The same is true for men when they reach the age when their sex hormones begin to decrease.)
That should be encouraging ......
Why? If it this a condition that usually develops because of life style, then IT IS IN YOUR POWER to make changes in the way you live that will stop and even reverse your bone loss.
If you learn what activities lead to bone loss, you can stop them. If you learn what helps to build new bone, you can do these things more often. The good news is that YOU can influence your own future bone health.
Causes of Osteopenia. Cross cultural studies show that severe bone loss is not major problems in many parts of the world. It IS a problem in societies where people eat “Westernized” diet, where people develop ‘bone robbing habits’ like smoking and where they do little hard physical labor or take certain over the counter remedies.
But there are other things, including SOME medical conditions and/or medical treatments that lead to bone loss. When you finish this page, do go to the list of Causes of excessive bone loss at and make a list of all that apply to you. This list is basic for your 'game plan'. See: Cause of Osteopenia
Many have found that they only make real progress when they have identified and addressed ALL their personal causes.
Understanding Bone Building.
Like all the cells in the body, bone is constantly changing. Old bone is removed and new bone is formed. This process is done by two types of bone cells: Osteoclasts and Osteoblasts.
Osteoclasts remove old bone cells. Osteoblasts build new bone
cells. When Osteoblasts are more active than Osteoclasts, bones grow.
The bones of children grow quickly because their Osteoblasts are more active than their Osteoclasts. As children get older the lengthening of their bones slows but bones continue to grow in density. Of course bone building is influenced by children's diet and activity. It is very important that our children are eating the foods necessary for good bone growth AND that they are physically active so as to stimulate their Osteoblasts.
Adult bone grows more slowly than that of children but your Osteoblasts (bone building cells) are more active than Osteoclasts (cells that remove bone) into your thirties.
Somewhere about the age of 35, the balance begins to shift. It is good to develop your strongest bone mass before age 35. You will be calling on that bone mass in future years as your Osteoclasts become more active than Osteoblasts.
Osteopenia occurs when your Osteoclasts have been removing more bone than your Osteoblasts are making. When you use so much of your "total bone mass" that your bones begin to thin, you have the beginning of 'thin bones'.
Symptoms of excessive bone loss If you are interested
in reading about possible symptoms, click here for Symptoms of bone loss
Your Osteopenia Treatment Plan should be designed to influence the ratio between the work of your Osteoclasts and your Osteoblasts. You want the work of the Osteoclasts [bone removing cells] to be slowed and/or the work of your Osteoblasts [bone building cells] increased. A really good treatment plan does both these tasks
Bone grows slowly and the older we are, the slower it grows. It can take a few years to reach normal bone density. That's why it is important to take an active part in creating your osteopenia treatment plan with your health care provider. (You need something you will STICK WITH for a number of years.)
It is good to educate yourself so you can raise questions that apply to your life situation. There are many things about your daily life that your health care provider does not know.
I am spending so much time talking to you about this because it research shows that the main reason why people do NOT improve their bone density, is that they do NOT stick with their Osteopenia treatment plan. If you help create it, you will be more likely to stick with it!
Your follow-up dexa scans will show you how well it is working. These follow up tests can be very motivating because you see the positive results - or lack there of - if you slack off.
So, learn all that you can. This web site offers more information than most books on the subject. And EVERYTHING is science based. I just enjoy reading research studies and I try to keep the site up to date.
Most people who are serious about improving their bone density, book mark the site and read a few pages every few. You can subscribe to the free newsletter so they can keep up with the newest information and stay motivated.
so book mark the site now. Read a few pages today....especially the one about CAUSES. Take notes so you can raise questions or propose lifestyle changes when you meet with your health care provider.
And remember that if you can find the specific things that have caused your bone loss, you are more likely to create a really successful plan for reversing your bone loss. Click here for Causes of bone loss
See also: Special information about bone loss in men
You will be able to strengthening your bones!
Click here for Treatments to improve bone density
Go to the Index of articles on this web site
Page revised: December 2012