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Overview

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Your 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 sunlight.

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 prevent osteoporosis.

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 your child.

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 osteoporosis.

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: February 23, 2011
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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