Osteopenia is categorized as having a lower than normal BMD. However, it is not low enough to be classified as osteoporosis. BMD is measured by the level of minerals in bones, which show how dense and strong the bones are.
However, as people age, bones naturally become thinner. Bone cells are reabsorbed by the body faster than new cells are made. This essentially makes bones weaker and easier to break.
Women are more likely to develop either condition because they have a lower peak BMD than men. Further, during menopause, the loss of minerals is increased from hormonal changes.
Other factors that may cause osteopenia are steroid medicine, chemotherapy, or radiation. Limited physical activity, a diet low in calcium and Vitamin D, or family history of the disease will also increase the risk.
Osteopenia is generally diagnosed using a dual X-ray absorptiometry (DXA). It is sensitive enough to detect even the smallest loss of bone mineral such as two percent over the course of a year.
According to the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, women over 65 years old should get routinely tested, especially if they are experiencing increased bone fractures.
People can avoid the progression of osteoporosis by increasing calcium in their diet. Dairy products, milk, and green vegetables are excellent sources of calcium.
Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium, which can be found in eggs, fish, and the body's exposure to sunlight. Exercise like walking, hiking, dancing, and lifting light weights will also help.