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    What is Osteopenia?

    Osteopenia is a condition wherein the body’s bone mineral density is lower than normal. Most physicians consider this condition as a precursor to osteoporosis. Nevertheless, not all individuals who are diagnosed with this state will develop osteoporosis as osteopenia is primarily about having bone mineral density with T-score that is between -1.0 to -2.5.

    Osteopenia often occurs in post-menopausal women, (a consequence of having estrogen level that are excessively decreased. This condition can also be aggravated by unhealthy lifestyle that includes such as smoking, excessive consumption of alcohol, lack of exercise. Other initiators of osteopenia include prolonged usage of glucocorticoid medications, including those drugs intended to treat asthma.

    Osteopenia can also occur in young athlete women. This condition has been recently linked with female athlete triad syndrome, together with disordered eating and amenorrhea, as one of its three components. Female athletes tend to have a lower fat percentage, lower body weight and higher incidence of asthma compared to individuals who are less active than them. The usage of corticosteroids to treat asthma as well as having low estrogen levels in the body can greatly weaken the bone over a  long period of time.

    How many women are affected by Osteopenia

    There are around 50% of women aged  65 in the United States who have been  diagnosed as having osteopenia. This is primarily due to naturally decreased bone density with aging. Patients with osteopenia are normally treated with medications intended for patients with osteoporosis.

    Causes of osteopenia

    As a person gets older, his or her bones get weaker but certain habits and choices can help accelerate the process that include:

    1. Smoking
    2. Insufficient consumption of vitamin D and calcium
    3. Drinking too much alcohol
    4. Prolonged usage of medications such as anticonvulsants and corticosteroids.

    Osteopenia prevention

    In order to prevent this condition from occurring, one should get enough or at least 30 minutes of weight-bearing exercise every day. Weight-bearing exercise include activities wherein the feet will touch the ground while working out, such as walking and running. Biking and swimming are not considered under this type of work out.

    Studies have shown that unlike men, women tend to be at higher risk to have low bone density, yet it is not solely viewed as a women’s condition and around 10% of men suffer from low bone density.

    Osteopenia Treatments

    Osteopenia can be treated with proper nutrition, medications and exercise. However, there are some health practitioners who are increasingly wary about overmedicating patients with this condition.

    It is strongly advisable for people with a T-score that is close to -1 to have higher intake of calcium, and vitamin D, and to partake in weight-bearing exercises as required.

    For people with T-score that are closer to -2.5, then it may be necessary to consider certain medications such as risedronate (Actonel), (Fosamax), risedronate, or raloxifene (Evista).

    Intake of estrogen is still an FDA-approved for prevention against osteoporosis, but only those who have had hysterectomy are allowed to take this supplement. This is because estrogen supplementation can increase the risk of uterine cancer.

    References and Further Reading

    Harvard University, Wikipedia, Washington, NOF.