(BlackDoctor.org) — Many people do not fully understand what osteopenia is. To explain, it is a mild form of bone loss—meaning that bone loss has not progressed to a point where breaks are likely to occur. Regardless of your bone density measurements, if you have osteopenia and then break a bone, your doctor will immediately bump up the status of your condition to osteoporosis. To prevent osteopenia and osteoporosis from developing, it’s important to take bone health seriously.
Having osteopenia rather than its more severe related condition, osteoporosis, doesn’t mean you’re not at risk for a fracture—it just means you haven’t had one yet.
Women sustain the majority of osteoporosis-related fractures that are actually in the range of osteopenia, which is why it’s important to be aware of the condition. If you wait to be concerned with bone loss until you’re at the point where it’s so severe that you’ve broken a bone, you’re missing the opportunity to reduce the risk of fracture.
Treatments are the same for osteopenia and osteoporosis, but your doctor will recommend options based on your individual case. Monitoring for additional bone loss is part of the treatment plan for osteopenia, along with making adjustments to diet and exercise in order to help strengthen bones. Not everyone with osteopenia or osteoporosis needs medication; however, people who are experiencing bone loss because of a family history of osteoporosis normally are started on prescription medication to help prevent the progression from osteopenia to osteoporosis.
The primary goal when treating osteopenia is to prevent or slow bone loss and the associated risk of fractures. Finding the treatment method that’s right for you will depend on several factors, including whether you’re postmenopausal.
In starting osteopenia treatment, your doctor must first determine what’s “normal” and what’s actually the result of bone loss in your specific case. This is why regular bone density screenings are so important. If routine screenings indicate that bone loss has occurred, then you should be treated for osteopenia.
Treatment options for osteopenia vary greatly from person to person, but the following are some methods that have been successful:
• Weight-bearing exercise through activities like dancing, walking, jogging, and lifting weights
• Improve balance with exercises like yoga and tai chi
• Supplement your diet with calcium and vitamin D
• Take bisphosphonates, a class of drugs that help prevent bone loss to decrease your risk of fractures
• Take hormone medication (such as estrogen replacement therapy) or selective estrogen receptor modulators (SERM bone-building medication), which play a role in the maintenance of bone mass
• Use calcitonin (Miacalcin, Fortical), a nasal spray that can help decrease bone loss
• Get regular bone density scans
• Remove home hazards that can increase your risk of falls and fractures
• Quit or avoiding smoking, which can also contribute to bone loss
Strong Bones Mean Healthy Bodies
It’s never too late to treat bone loss and even slow it down with lifestyle changes and medication, when appropriate. Even though some medications can be very helpful in preventing broken bones, none of them are 100 percent effective.
You may be able to prevent osteoporosis and slow down bone loss even after you’ve been diagnosed with osteopenia or low bone density. If you’ve received an osteopenia diagnosis, now is the time to take preventive measures that can build up your bone health before a condition like osteoporosis robs you of bone density. There are many options to treat osteopenia, and you and your doctor should work together to figure out the best way to keep bone loss to a minimum so you can stay as healthy and strong as possible.