doctor may also want you to take a calcium supplement, often combined with
vitamin D. Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium and other minerals. It is
found in eggs, salmon, sardines, swordfish, and some fish oils. It is added to
milk and can be taken in calcium and vitamin supplements. In addition to what
you take in from food, your body makes vitamin D in response to
Exercise is important for having strong bones,
because bone forms in response to stress. Weight-bearing exercises such as
walking, hiking, and dancing are all good choices. Adding exercise with light
weights or elastic bands can help the bones in the upper body. Talk to your
doctor or a physical therapist about starting an exercise program.
In addition to diet and exercise, quitting smoking and avoiding excessive
use of alcohol and cola will also reduce your risk of bone loss.
There are medicines for treating bone thinning. But these are more
commonly used if you have progressed past osteopenia to the more serious
condition of osteoporosis. Medicines that may be used for osteopenia include
bisphosphonates, raloxifene, and hormone replacement. For more information on
these medicines, see the topic Osteoporosis.
How can osteopenia be prevented?
Whether you will tend to
develop osteopenia is, in part, already determined. Things like whether you
have any family members who have had osteoporosis or osteopenia, whether you
have chronic asthma that requires you to take steroids, and how much calcium
and vitamin D you got while you were growing up are beyond your control now.
But if you are a young adult or if you are raising children, there are things
you can do to help develop strong bones and help slow down osteopenia and
Your bones don't reach their greatest
density until you are about 30 years old, so for children and people younger
than 30, anything that helps increase bone density will have long-term
benefits. To maximize bone density, make sure you get plenty of calcium and
vitamin D through your diet and by spending a little time in the sun, get
weight-bearing exercise on a regular basis, don't smoke, and avoid cola and
excessive alcohol. If you have children, teach them to eat healthy, get regular
exercise, and avoid smoking and alcohol. Also, get them to play a little in the
sunshine to help their bodies make more vitamin D. Talk
with your doctor about how much and what sources of vitamin D are right for
If you're older than 30, it's still not too late to
make these lifestyle changes. A balanced diet and regular exercise will help
slow the loss of bone density, delay osteopenia, and delay or prevent