What is Osteopenia?

Osteopenia is a bone condition portrayed by a decrease density of bone (Driver and Shiel Jr., 2013). This leads to bone weakening and an increased risk of bone fracture (Driver et al, 2013). Osteopenia is lower density of bone than normal, but not as low as osteoporosis (WebMD, 2012). Osteoporosis is far more severe than osteopenia.

Causes of Osteopenia

  • Genetics and age: If anyone in one’s family had osteopenia or osteoporosis, it is likely for them to get it as well. After about 35 years of age is the time where the bone loses its density more than the body makes. Therefore, this is the time where one more likely to get osteopenia. (Lindemann, 2014)
  • Lifestyle Factors (Lindemann, 2014):

           - Stress

          - Dieting

          - Alcohol use

          - Caffeine; too much caffeine (more than 400mg/day) can be a problem.

          - Sodium; excess of sodium can lead to osteopenia. One should not have 2400mg of sodium per day as research showed this has a negative effect on bones.

         - Tobacco use, smoking

         - Excessive exercise

         - Eating patterns

         - Protein; too much protein can lead to an acidic condition. If one’s body gets too acidic, they can die, and when this happens, it pulls the calcium from bones and teeth to balance it again. Therefore, too much intake of protein can lead to osteopenia.

  • Medical Conditions and Treatments – some medical conditions are related to develop osteopenia such as Anorexia, Bulimia, Cancer, Diabetes, etc. Also, medical treatments, prescribed drugs, and over the counter drugs can cause osteopenia. (Lindemann, 2014)
  • Lack of Vitamin D, Vitamin K, Calcium, and Magnesium: One of the main causes is the lack of these nutrients and vitamins. One must get an adequate amount of these vitamins and minerals to reduce the risk of getting osteopenia. (Lindemann, 2014)
  • - Vitamin D: It is the key to calcium absorption. Remember not to have too much of this, as it can lead to serious problems.
  • - Calcium: It is the main element in the bones and teeth.
  • - Magnesium: Helps make up a hormone that the body uses to absorb calcium.
  • Phosphorous Imbalance: One must not take too much or too little phosphorous. The intake should be balanced. Drinking carbonated beverages is a problem as it is high in phosphorous, and too much of phosphorous can disrupt the calcium/phosphorous balance for good bone growth. (Lindemann, 2014)

Symptoms of Osteopenia

There are no symptoms of Osteopenia (WebMD, 2012). It does not cause any pain nor discomfort as the bone is getting thinner (WebMD, 2012). However, one has a higher risk of getting a fracture, as the bone becomes less dense (WebMD, 2012).

How to Prevent Osteopenia and it Becoming into Osteoporosis?

The main way to prevent osteopenia is to live a healthy lifestyle and make healthy food choices. Make sure to have balanced diets, and a fair amount of calcium and vitamin D intake. Adults under the age of 50 need 1,000 mg of calcium daily; after age 50, one should get at least 1,200 mg daily (Rodriguez and Marcellin, 2011). If one cannot get enough calcium through your daily diet, take calcium supplements to receive the sufficient amount of calcium. Make sure not to take too much protein, caffeine and alcohol. Try to avoid alcohol, caffeine and carbonated beverages as much as you can; no more than two drinks of alcohol daily (Driver et al, 2013). These are a few ways to prevent osteopenia and it becoming into osteoporosis.

Diet for Osteopenia

  •   Avoid highly acidic diets as this can cause osteopenia. If you eat acidic diets, your body would need to remove calcium from your bones and teeth to keep the body neutral. Less calcium in bones results to higher risk of getting osteopenia. Some acid forming foods include meats, fish, soda pop, caffeine, etc. (Lindemann, 2014)
  • Make sure to get a sufficient amount of calcium per day. Some foods that contain calcium are dairy products, fruit juices, beans, tofu, leafy green vegetables, almonds, sardines with bones, etc. (Rodriguez et al, 2011)
  • Some foods interfere with the absorption of calcium. Oxalates and phytates interfere with the absorption of calcium. Some examples of oxalates are spinach, sweet potatoes and beans. Some examples of phytates are whole wheat bran, beans, nuts and soy isolates. Try to stay away from these types of foods. (Lindemann, 2014)
  • Get a sufficient amount of Vitamin D daily. Vitamin D is only in a few foods. Another way of getting vitamin D in your body is taking vitamin D supplements or calcium supplements, as vitamin D is included in the calcium supplements. (Rodriguez et al, 2011)
  • Exercise daily. Try doing weight-bearing exercises such as weight training, walking, and running. (Rodriguez et al, 2011)

*This diet is also a way of treating osteopenia (Lindemann, 2014).

Treatments of Osteopenia

  •   Healthy diet(Driver et al, 2013).
  • Prescribed/over the counter medication(Driver et al, 2013).
  • Quitting smoking(Driver et al, 2013).
  • Weight bearing exercise(Driver et al, 2013).
  • Calcium and Vitamin D intake(Driver et al, 2013).

How common is Osteopenia?

Everyone who has/had osteoporosis, had osteopenia before. Osteoporosis affects approximately 1.4 million Canadians (International Osteoporosis Foundation, 2014). Therefore, approximately 1.4 million Canadians had osteopenia before.

To conclude, osteopenia is not as severe as osteoporosis, however we should still be more cautious when one has osteopenia. There are many reasons why osteopenia occurs, but the main nutrients that cause osteopenia are the lack of calcium, vitamin D, and magnesium. Also, excess of sodium and protein can cause osteopenia. There aren’t any symptoms to osteopenia, and research shows that no pain or discomfort occurs when the bone density decreases (WebMD, 2012). To prevent osteopenia and it becoming into osteoporosis, one must maintain a healthy lifestyle, keeping caution of what they are eating and ensuring that they are getting the right amounts of nutrients per day.

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