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Osteopenia is the gradual decrease in bone mass, which makes bones more fragile and increases the risk of fractures. In addition, when osteopenia is not identified and treated correctly, it can progress to osteoporosis, in which the bones are so weak that they can break with only minor blows.
Osteopenia is more common in postmenopausal women and in men over 60 years of age, because as age advances, bones become more porous, with a decrease in calcium absorption by bones. Therefore, it is recommended to increase the consumption of foods rich in calcium and vitamin D to avoid osteopenia and osteoporosis. Check out foods rich in calcium and vitamin D to prevent osteopenia and osteoporosis.
Causes of osteopenia
Osteopenia is more common in women, especially those who have entered menopause early or are post-menopausal, but it can also occur in men between 60 and 70 years of age due to decreased testosterone production. In addition other factors that increase the risk of developing osteopenia are:
- Diet low in foods with calcium;
- Being a smoker;
- Do not practice regular physical activity;
- Having a family history of osteoporosis;
- Lack of adequate sun exposure;
- Prolonged use of medication;
- Changes in thyroid, parathyroid, liver or kidneys.
Furthermore, chemotherapy, alcoholism and consumption of drinks or foods rich in caffeine can also favor osteopenia, because they can influence the bone formation process.
How the diagnosis is made
The diagnosis of osteopenia is made through an examination that assesses bone density, called bone densitometry. This exam is similar to an X-ray and therefore does not cause any pain or discomfort and the only preparation needed is to avoid taking calcium supplements for the previous 24 hours. In general, the exam results are:
- Normal, when it is equal to or greater than 1;
- Osteopenia, when it is between 1 and -2, 5;
- Osteoporosis, when the result is less than -2, 5.
This examination should be performed every year by women over 65 years of age and men over 70 years of age, as osteopenia does not present any type of symptoms and, therefore, can easily progress to osteoporosis if it is not identified and treated. Learn more about the bone densitometry exam.
Treatment of osteopenia
Treatment for osteopenia aims to prevent excessive bone loss and progression to osteoporosis. calcium and vitamin D and change in eating habits, giving preference to foods with calcium and vitamin D.
1. Use of supplements and medications
It is normally recommended by your doctor that you take calcium and vitamin D supplementation every day, as recommended by your doctor, to ensure he althy bones.
In addition, in cases where the person has a higher risk of developing fractures, the doctor may indicate the use of some medicines that are normally indicated for osteoporosis in order to increase bone mass, such as Alendronate, Risedronate, calcitonin, Denosumab or Strontium Ranelate, for example.See more about treating osteoporosis.
In the case of women, as osteopenia can be related to hormonal changes typical of menopause, hormone replacement therapy may also be indicated by the doctor, which can be a good alternative to help rebalance metabolism and keep bones stronger for longer.
2. Practice of physical activity
Lack of physical activity, especially in people who spend a lot of time in bed, is an important cause of weakening bones. On the other hand, athletes tend to have a higher bone mass than the general population.
Therefore, regular and frequent physical activity is important to help restore bone strength in osteopenia, and is also a great way to prevent falls and thus reduce the risk of fractures.
In addition to the practice of physical activities, it is important that the person adopts he althier lifestyle habits, avoiding the consumption of alcoholic beverages and smoking, since they can directly interfere with bone mass and increase the risk of developing osteopenia.