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Osteopenia - Overview

How is osteopenia diagnosed? continued...

The United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends that all women age 65 and older routinely have a bone density test to screen for osteoporosis. If you are at increased risk for fractures caused by osteoporosis, routine screening should begin sooner.1 USPSTF recommends that you and your doctor check your fracture risk using a tool such as FRAX to help decide whether you should be screened for osteoporosis. Talk to your doctor about your risk factors and when to start bone density screening.

The FRAX tool was developed by the World Health Organization to help predict your risk of having a fracture related to osteoporosis in the next 10 years. You can use this tool. Go to the website at www.sheffield.ac.uk/FRAX, and click on Calculation Tool. If you have had a bone density test on your hip, you can type in your score. If you have not had that test, you can leave the score blank.

Things that increase risk include:

  • Being white (Caucasian) or, to a lesser degree, being Asian.
  • A family history of osteoporosis.
  • Being thin.
  • Long-term use of corticosteroids, such as hydrocortisone or prednisone for inflammatory conditions, or anticonvulsants, such as carbamazepine (Tegretol), gabapentin (Neurontin), or phenytoin (Dilantin) for pain or seizures.
  • Eating disorders or diseases that affect the absorption of nutrients from food.
  • Being inactive or bedridden for a long period of time.
  • Smoking.
  • Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol.
  • Having a diet low in calcium or vitamin D.

Information for men. Experts suggest that older men talk to their doctors about osteoporosis and, if they are at risk, have bone density tests done.2 Many men don't think they are at risk for osteopenia or osteoporosis, since these are commonly considered to be conditions of older women. Because men have a higher peak bone density than women at middle age, osteopenia and osteoporosis tend to happen at an older age in men. But aside from the hormonal change in women as they go through menopause, the things that put people at risk for osteopenia are true for men as well as for women. Men are also at risk if they have low levels of the hormone testosterone. Talk with your doctor if any risk factors apply to you.

How is it treated?

Osteopenia is treated by taking steps to keep it from progressing to osteoporosis and, for a few people, by taking medicine. Lifestyle changes can help reduce the bone loss that leads to osteopenia and osteoporosis.

What you eat is very important to bone development. Calcium is the most critical mineral for bone mass. Your best sources of calcium are milk and other dairy products, green vegetables, and calcium-enriched products.

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: November 06, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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