Osteopenia refers to bone density that is lower than
normal peak density but not low enough to be classified as osteoporosis. Bone
density is a measurement that
shows how dense and strong the bones are.
Bones naturally become thinner as people grow older, because
beginning at about 30 years of age existing bone cells are reabsorbed by the
body faster than new bone is made. As this occurs, the bones lose minerals,
heaviness (mass), and structure, making them weaker and increasing their risk
of breaking. Both women and men are more likely to have osteopenia if they fail to
reach their peak bone density by age 30. Women are more likely to
develop osteopenia than men. This is because women have a lower peak density and
because the loss of bone mass speeds up as hormonal changes take place at the
time of menopause.
Prevention and treatment of osteopenia include regular exercise, a
nutritious diet with plenty of calcium and vitamin D, and lifestyle changes
such as quitting smoking and avoiding excessive alcohol.
Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & Carla J. Herman, MD, MPH - Geriatric Medicine