About 18 million Americans have osteopenia. Osteopenia refers to early signs of bone loss that can turn into osteoporosis. With osteopenia, bone mineral density is lower than normal. However, it is not yet low enough to be considered osteoporosis.
Not everyone who has osteopenia develops osteoporosis. But osteopenia can turn into osteoporosis. Osteoporosis can result in easily fractured bones and other very serious bone problems. It can also cause disfigurement and lead to loss of mobility and independence.
You've probably heard that calcium is important for bone health and treating -- or preventing -- osteoporosis. Happily, calcium seems to be everywhere these days. Not only is it naturally in dairy and other foods, but it now appears in many fortified products -- like oatmeal, cereal, protein bars, and orange juice. Calcium is also sold in countless supplements for bone health that line the aisles of your local drugstore.
And yet, it's not enough. "Most people still aren't getting enough calcium...
Bone health is measured in two ways. The first is bone density. Bone density defines the thickness of your bone. The second is bone mass. Bone mass means how much bone you have. Bone mass, or the amount of bone you have, usually peaks around age 30. Then bone mass begins to decline. Your body starts to reabsorb bone faster than new bone can be made.
To find bone density, your health care provider measures the levels of minerals in your bones. These minerals include:
The denser the content of your bone mineral is, the stronger your bones are.
With aging, your body absorbs back calcium and other minerals from your bones. This reabsorption can make your bones weaker and lead to osteopenia and osteoporosis. The bones become more vulnerable to fractures and other damage.
What Are Some Risk Factors for Osteopenia and Osteoporosis?
Risk factors for developing osteopenia are the same as those for developing osteoporosis. They include: