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Osteopenia and Osteoporosis: What You Need to Know

Did you know that osteopenia affects half of Americans over age 50¹, and osteoporosis causes an estimated two million broken bones every year?²

Both conditions are a result of lower-than-normal bone mass or bone mineral density, which is the amount of bone mineral contained in a certain amount of bone.

What is osteopenia and osteoporosis?

As their names suggest, osteopenia and osteoporosis are related diseases with different degrees of decreased bone density; osteopenia being a less severe form of bone loss than osteoporosis.

Healthy bone vs osteoporosis

The bone density shown on the left is a healthy porous bone, compared to the bone on the right, which shows signs of osteoporosis.

Osteopenia can be viewed as the midway point in a progression of bone breakdown toward osteoporosis. Osteoporosis, or “fragile bone disease”, is the loss of bone mass caused by a deficiency in calcium, vitamin D, magnesium and other vitamins and minerals.³

As we age, we inevitably experience natural bone loss, a process that is expedited for those suffering from chronic illnesses such as renal disease. Fortunately, there are actionable ways people can slow the progression of osteopenia through diet, exercise, and lifestyle changes.

The latest research on osteopenia and osteoporosis

Calcium, collagen, vitamin D, and protein are specific key nutrients involved in bone health. Collagen also plays a key role in cells — enhancing bone mineral density and bone mineral content.

One year-long bone study showed that women taking calcium and collagen supplements together had lower bone breakdown than those that only took calcium⁴. The favorable results provided from these and several other studies conducted help to guide patients toward bone loss prevention.

How to detect osteopenia and osteoporosis

Osteopenia and osteoporosis symptoms may not always be easy to detect without adequate testing, though signs may include bone fractures, a stooped posture, bone pain, and loss of height.

As we age, the body reabsorbs the bone cells faster than they can be rebuilt, which leads to a decrease in bone density.⁵ Post-menopausal women are more susceptible to osteoporosis because of its close relation to estrogen deficiency.

In order to accurately test bone density, there is a simple test called a dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry scan, which is used to determine a T-score that measures your bone mineral density (BMD).

Testing is recommended for women over the age of 65 after menopause, and men over 70 at risk for bone loss.

Bone Density T-score

Risk factors for “weak bones”

  • Aging
  • Genetics or family history of low BMD 
  • Little to no exercise 
  • Diet lacking calcium and/or vitamin D 
  • Smoking
  • Too much caffeine or alcohol 
  • Some medications (chronic steroid use) 
  • End Stage Kidney Disease → Renal Osteodystrophy (adynamic bone disease)

How to prevent osteopenia and osteoporosis

While factors like genetics cannot be avoided, lifestyle choices play an important role in the prevention of osteopenia and osteoporosis.

It is recommended to avoid high-sugar foods and beverages (like sodas) as well as fast and processed foods, alcohol, or excessive caffeine.

Social History

Based on research studies, it is encouraged to eat foods that have higher amounts of vitamin D, calcium, magnesium, and protein to help prevent decreased bone density. 

Vidafuel’s Wellness Protein Drinks are a quick way to get an additional 16g of complete protein in every 2oz serving!

In addition to diet, make sure to keep up with regular, weight-bearing exercise for at least 30 minutes per day; this includes activities like walking, climbing stairs, gardening, weight-lifting, yoga, and more.

If you have reason to be concerned about your bone health, discuss with your doctor who can monitor your bone mineral density.

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References:

  1. Publishing HH. Osteopenia: When you have weak bones, but not osteoporosis. Harvard Health.
    https://www.health.harvard.edu/womens-health/osteopenia-when-you-have-weak-bones-but-not-osteoporosis

  2. National Osteoporosis website (unknown author).
    https://www.nof.org/preventing-fractures/general-facts/

  3. Hirsch MD, Joshua A. Osteoporosis vs. Osteopenia. SpineUniverse.
    https://www.spineuniverse.com/conditions/osteoporosis/osteopenia-osteoporosis-there-difference

  4. Elam ML, Johnson SA, Hooshmand S, et al. A calcium-collagen chelate dietary supplement attenuates bone loss in postmenopausal women with osteopenia: a randomized controlled trial. J Med Food.
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25314004/

  5. Osteopenia: Risk factors, diagnosis, and treatment. Medical News Today.
    https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/318321#diagnosis