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You've heard of Osteoporosis - A bone disease that develops when bone mineral density and bone mass decreases, or when the structure and strength of bone changes. A disorder where the bones breaks down bone tissue, causing them to become fragile and more likely to break.

What about Osteopenia? What are the causes? How is it disgnosed? What are the symptoms?

Like their names suggest, osteopenia and osteoporosis are related diseases. Both are varying degrees of bone loss, as measured by bone mineral density. Osteopenia isn’t as severe as osteoporosis, but it is a similar problem, just a lesser version of it. Not everyone with osteopenia develops osteoporosis, but it can happen.

What are the symptoms of osteopenia? How is osteopaenia diagnosed?

Osteopaenia doesn't cause any symptoms nor any noticeable changes in your bone. You might only find out that you have it if you break a bone. This could happen after a small accident, like a knock or a slip.

You can talk to your doctor about your risk of developing osteopaenia. If your doctor thinks that you are at risk, you might be sent for a bone density scan.

Most common bone densitometry test: Dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DEXA or DXA) -

effectively measures the density of your bones in the wrist, hip, or spine, predicts future fracture risk, diagnoses osteoporosis, and checks how well your symptoms respond to treatment.

The result is your T score:

  • A T score of -1 to +1 is considered normal bone density.

  • A T score of -1 to -2.5 indicates osteopenia (low bone density).

  • A T score of -2.5 or lower is bone density low enough to be categorized as osteoporosis.

Who should get bone density testing?

  • Females after menopause or those aged 65 and older

  • Males older than 70 years old

  • People who weigh less than 58 kg

  • Long-term use of steroid medications such as prednisone

  • Rheumatoid arthritis

  • History of bone fracture in self or parents

Lifestyle factors that can put you at risk of osteopaenia include:

  • Medical conditions such as hyperthyroidism

  • Low intakes of calcium, vitamin D, potassium or protein

  • Inactivity/ Lack of exercise

  • Cigarette smoking/ Overuse of alcohol

  • Eating disorders that reduce your body weight

  • Low levels of estrogen (for women) or Testosterone (for men)

How are osteopenic bones treated/ prevented?

There are 3 important things you can do to treat osteopaenia. Treatment for osteopenia starts with changes to your lifestyle.

Your doctor will want you to increase your physical activity.

Benefits of exercise:

  • Increase muscle strength.

  • Improve balance.

  • Decrease the risk of broken bones.

  • Improve posture.

  • Lessen pain.

Choosing the right form of exercise:

  • Strength training with weights/ Body Weights/ Weight Machines

  • Brisk walking/ Jogging

  • Aerobics/ Dancing

  • Stair Climbing/ Skipping

  • Flexibility/ Stability Exercises

  • Gardening

Your doctor also will suggest ways to get more calcium and vitamin D in your diet:

Eat foods that are high in calcium:

  • leafy green vegetables

  • dairy

  • sardines

Plentiful sources of vitamin D include:

  • beef liver

  • oily or fatty fish

  • mackerel

  • fortified cereal

People of all ages can help their bones stay strong by maintaining a healthy diet, making sure they get enough calcium and vitamin D. In addition to food, another way to get vitamin D is with a small amount of sun exposure.

If you're not sure how healthy your bones are, talk to your doctor. Don't let fear of bone fractures keep you from having fun and being active.


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