• What Is Osteopenia and Do I Need To Treat It?

    on Jun 25th, 2017

What is Osteopenia and Do I Have to Treat It if I Have It?

If you are concerned about your bone health and your possible risk of having a bone fracture in the future, a radiologic study called a DXA bone density is performed.  Your bone density score is then compared to the density of an average 30 year old whose bones are considered to be normal density (mean score of 0).  Depending on where your score falls on the bell shaped curve, you will get a diagnosis of normal bone density if your score falls between -1 and +1 on the curve, osteopenia if you are between -2.5 and -1, and osteoporosis if your score is <-2.5.  Having a score <-1.0 tells us that you have thinning bones, and the thinner your bones are, the higher the risk of having a 

Your risk of a fracture is affected by other factors besides your bone density including: your age, height and weight, family history of hip fractures, whether or not you smoke and how much alcohol you normally drink, what other medical conditions you may have, and what medications you are on.  To help determine if you need medication to help treat osteopenia (the risk of fracture is so high if you have osteoporosis you should be on some medical therapy), we can get a FRAX score: https://www.sheffield.ac.uk/FRAX/tool.aspx?country=9 . The FRAX score uses an algorithm that takes all of these factors into account to help determine if you should be on medication.

If your FRAX scores suggest your osteopenia is not so bad that you need medication right now, we still recommend taking good care of your bones.  This entails regular weight bearing exercise such as walking, jogging, dancing, jumping rope, or other activity where your feet are hitting the ground.  Doing weight training can help the upper extremities and the spine.  We also recommend that you get enough calcium and Vitamin D in your diet: the recommendation is to be getting 1000 mg of calcium daily if you are between 19-50 years old and 1200 mg if you are over 50, and 600 mg of Vitamin D.  If you are not getting enough dietary calcium (milk, yoghurt, cheese, sardines, etc.) you should take calcium supplements to get to the recommended amount (but not more than that).  Calcium supplements come in various forms (tablets, drinks, gummies, etc.) and are usually calcium carbonate (should be taken with food) or calcium citrate (Citracal – can be taken on an empty stomach). 

If you have concerns about your bone health, please make an appointment with your doctor to see if you might need a DXA bone density study.


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