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 weaker 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
- Vitamin D and its analogues
The denser the content of your bone mineral is, the stronger your bones are.
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
- Leading an inactive lifestyle
- A history of anorexia nervosa
- A family history of osteoporosis
- Heavy alcohol consumption
- Early menopause
Most people with osteopenia don’tknow 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 for 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
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.