Are you suffering from weak bones?

By Dr. Supriya Bali in Internal Medicine

Jan 08 , 2016 | 5 min read

Bone disease is a silent and a disabling condition that develops through a woman’s life as age progresses.

Osteopenia refers to early signs of bone loss that can turn into osteoporosis. With osteopenia, bone mineral density (thickness) is lower than normal. However, it is not yet low enough to be considered as osteoporosis. It is important to remember that not everyone who has osteopenia develops osteoporosis. But osteopenia can turn into osteoporosis. Osteoporosis can result in easily fractured bones and other serious bone problems. It can also cause disfigurement and lead to loss of mobility and independence.

With ageing, your body absorbs back the minerals from your bones, leading to weak bones and making them vulnerable to fractures and other damage.

How is Osteopenia Diagnosed?

Bone health is measured in two ways. The first is bone density. Bone density defines the thickness of your bone. The second is bone mass. Bone mass means how much bone you have. Bone mass or the amount of bone you have, usually peaks when a person is around 30 years of age. Then bone mass begins to decline. Your body starts to reabsorb bone faster than new bone can be made.

To find bone density, blood tests are done to measure the levels of minerals in your bones such as

  • Calcium
  • Phosphate
  • Vitamin D and its analogues

The denser the content of your bone mineral is, the stronger your bones are. Checkout bone fracture healing foods.

What are the risk factors for osteopenia and osteoporosis?

Risk factors for developing osteopenia are the same as those for developing osteoporosis. They include:

  • Being female
  • Being thin and/or having a small frame
  • Getting too little calcium in the diet
  • Smoking
  • Leading an inactive lifestyle
  • A history of anorexia nervosa
  • A family history of osteoporosis
  • Heavy alcohol consumption
  • Early menopause

Most people with osteopenia don’t know they have it. In fact, the first sign may be a broken bone. A broken bone may mean that the condition has already become osteoporosis.

How can a doctor test Osteopenia and osteoporosis?

The most accurate way to diagnose osteopenia and osteoporosis is through bone mineral density testing. This is usually done with a Dual-energy X-ray Absorptiometry (DEXA) scan.

DEXA scan results are reported as T-scores:

  • Normal bone: T-score above -1
  • Osteopenia: T-score between -1 and -2.5
  • Osteoporosis: T-score of -2.5 or lower

Other tests can be done to help diagnose osteoporosis and osteopenia. Quantitative ultrasound is one such test. It measures the speed of sound in the bone to assess bone density and strength.

Who should get a bone density test?

It is recommended that you get bone density screening done if:

  • You are a woman and above 65 years of age
  • You are a woman above 60 years of age with certain risk factors that put you at increased risk of fracture

Does Osteoporosis make you tired?
Most patients diagnosed with Osteoporosis, usually feel pain for most of the day. This leads to poor quality of sleep where patients are unable to get at least 7-8 hours of sleep. Ultimately, this makes the patient feel tired throughout the next day. Therefore, fatigue and osteoporosis are interlinked with each other.
Weak Bones
Bone health is affected to a great extent in patients who have been diagnosed with osteoporosis. In these patients, the living tissue becomes brittle and there are higher chances of fracture.
Weak bones causes and diseases
In the early years of life, bone buildup is more than bone breakdown. This keeps the bone mass and strength in a healthy state. After the age of 35, this natural process reverses and bone breakdown is significantly greater. In osteoporosis, bone mass is lost at a much faster rate.
The most common diseases associated with weak bones:
-      Osteoporosis
-      Osteopenia
-      Bone infection
-      Paget’s disease
-      Bone tumors
-      Osteonecrosis
-      Osteoarthritis
-      Rheumatoid arthritis
-      Scoliosis
-      Gout
How to make bones strong
You can gradually make bones strong with the help of the following expert-recommended bone strengthening tips:
-      Consume calcium-rich foods: You can intake both dairy and non-dairy sources of calcium regularly. Some of the dairy based calcium sources include milk, cheese, and yogurt.
-      Consume sources rich in Vitamin D: Foods such as egg yolk, milk, fortified orange juice, and fatty fish help in proper calcium absorption in the body.
-      Stay active: You must aim to perform one or more physical activities for a minimum of 150 minutes every week. You can choose any of the activities including walking, jogging, lifting weights, push-ups, and yoga.
-      Quit drinking alcohol and smoking: These habits tend to speed up the bone loss rate in the body.
How to make bones and joints stronger
You can easily make your bones and joints stronger after implementing the following tips:
-      Consume sufficient vitamin K: Vitamin K helps in steady calcium formation and bone formation. Foods like green leafy vegetables and lettuce comprise Vitamin K, which works with Vitamin D to gain better bone health.  
-      Maintain healthy weight: Excessive body weight when compared to the ideal BMI leads to excess pressure on the bones. If an individual is overweight, then there is a steady wear and tear of joints. Therefore, it is important to strike a balance between diet and exercise to maintain a healthy weight.
-      Build muscles: Muscles support the bones, which makes it crucial to focus on building and maintaining muscles in the body. It also helps to stay coordinated and balanced.  
Vitamins for strong bones and joints
Here are the best vitamins for strong bones and joints that will help improve the bone health over the upcoming months:
-      Vitamin A: This is a fat soluble vitamin available in sources such as fish, meat, fortified breakfast cereals, oranges, and vegetables. Higher vitamin A levels lead to reduced chances of fractures.
-      Vitamin B12: Low levels of Vitamin B12 are closely related to higher chances of being affected by osteoporosis. Some of the useful sources include eggs, fish, dairy products, milk, and fortified breakfast cereal.
-      Vitamin C: Optimum vitamin C levels improves bone density in the body. Proper intake of vitamin C sources such as lemons, oranges, strawberries, cauliflower, kale, and bell peppers, to name a few.
-      Vitamin K: Individuals who are not taking blood thinners can consume foods with Vitamin K. Some of the foods include olive oil, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, kale, and Swiss chard.

How can I prevent osteopenia and osteoporosis?

Osteopenia is a cause of concern for every woman, no matter what her age or health status is. That’s because osteopenia is the first step to a full-blown osteoporosis or severe bone loss. Here are some of the prevention tips:

  • Eat a balanced diet. Include plenty of calcium and vitamin D. You’ll find these nutrients in foods such as milk, yogurt, cheese and broccoli.
  • Exercise regularly. Choose weight-bearing exercises such as walking or running. Also do strength training using weights or resistance bands.
  • Avoid smoking.
  • If you drink, do so in moderation.
  • If you have gone through menopause, talk to your doctor about the newer osteoporosis medication.

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