The conditions known as osteoporosis as osteopenia (“osteo” means bone) indicate that bones have become weaker. Often, both conditions are “silent” and without warning signs until you experience a bone fracture, neck or low back pain, bone pain or tenderness or stooped posture.
According to the World Health Organization, osteopenia means bone tissue has lost minerals that make it hard and is therefore less dense and weaker (as measured by DEXA scan - dual energy x-ray absorptiometry, a test that uses a low dose x-ray to measure bone mineral content). Osteoporosis is a disease that happens when significant bone density is lost and bones therefore become weak and prone to breaking even from a minor fall or bump. Osteopenia refers to bone mineral density (BMD) that is lower than normal peak BMD but not low enough to be classified as osteoporosis.
How can you prevent osteopenia and osteoporosis? Talk to your physician to see if you should get a DEXA scan and blood test for vitamin D. Also, be sure to meet the Recommended Dietary Allowance for calcium for your age group. If you are between 19-50 years old you need 1,000 mg per day. Men ages 51-70 also need 1,000 mg per day whereas women over the age of 51 need 1,200 mg calcium per day. How do your foods stack up for calcium content? Check out the calcium content of foods here. Adults ages 19 - 70 need 600 IU vitamin D per day those over 70 years old need 800 IU per day. Few foods have vitamin D in them. Check out a list of vitamin D rich foods here.
Treatment for osteopenia and osteoporosis often includes calcium and vitamin D supplements, weight bearing exercise (see a related article here Improve Bone Health with Liquid Calcium Supplements) and possibly taking prescription medications for bone density.
Rev Endocr Metab Disord 2010;11:237-51.