What is Osteopenia?
Osteopenia and osteoporosis are both related to the same disease, however, here’s why they term differently. Both are varying degrees of bone loss, as measured by bone mineral density, a marker for how strong a bone is and the risk that it might break. If you think of bone mineral density as a slope; normal would be at the top and osteoporosis at the bottom. Osteopenia, which affects about half of Americans over age 50, would fall somewhere in between.
Osteopenia and bone density test
The main way to determine your bone density is to have a painless, noninvasive test called dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry (DXA) that measures the mineral content of bone. The measurements, known as T-scores, determine which category — osteopenia, osteoporosis, or normal — a person falls into.
Fracture risk increases as bone mineral density decline. A T-score ranging from -1 to -2.5 is classified as osteopenia. The lower the score, the more porous your bone is. If your bone density results fall into the osteopenia category, your doctors will probably schedule you for a bone mineral density test every two to five years.
Everybody’s bones get weaker as they age. But certain choices and habits accelerate the process. They include:
- Not getting enough calcium and/or vitamin D
- Drinking too much alcohol
- Using certain medications, such as corticosteroids or anticonvulsants
- Not getting enough weight-bearing exercise (at least 30 minutes on most days). If your feet touch the ground during an exercise, it’s probably weight-bearing. Running and walking are weight-bearing. Swimming and biking are not.
Women are far more likely to have low bone density than men, but it’s no longer viewed as solely a women’s condition. About a third of white and Asian men over age 50 are affected. The percentage for Hispanics is 23% and African Americans are 19% lower but still sizable.
Should I get a bone mineral density test?
Experts disagree about who should get their bone mineral density measured because it’s not clear that the benefits justify the cost. Consider this: 750 tests of women between the ages of 50 and 59 would need to be done to prevent just one hip or spine fracture over a five-year period. From a societal point of view, is that worth it?
Currently, the National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF) recommends testing for:
- Women 65 and older
- Postmenopausal women younger than 65 who have one or more risk factors, which include being thin
- Postmenopausal women who have had a fracture
If you aren’t in one of these categories yet, don’t wait until you are to start doing some weight-bearing exercise. Some “uplifting” activity now might prevent frail bones later.
For men, testing is done more on a case-by-case basis.
Osteopenia can be treated either with EMS Training, high vitamin D nutrition diets, or medications. Recently, there have been numerous doctors using EMS treatments to help combat osteopenia and osteoporosis patients. Studies from the US National Library of Medicine have shown that usage of EMS improves bone density. One specific case found an 11-13% increase in bone density and a decrease rate of bone loss in the upper and lower leg bones, the tibia, and femur. The EMS treatments were done for a length of 6 months, 5 days a week. If your T-score is under -2, you need to be sure you are doing regular weight-bearing exercise, and you are getting enough vitamin D and dietary calcium. If you’re closer to -2.5, your doctor may consider adding medication to keep your bones strong.