What is Osteopenia?
Osteopenia is a condition where your bone mineral density (BMD) is lower than normal peak density, but not low enough to be considered osteoporosis.
If you have osteopenia, osteoporosis is not inevitable!
However, if you don’t address the cause of your bone loss you will be at greater risk of osteoporosis and resulting fractures.
In fact, women with osteopenia represent approximately 50% of the total population that is at risk for fractures. Plus, those with osteopenia who have already suffered a fracture have the same fracture risk as women with osteoporosis.
So while osteoporosis is the more “serious” diagnosis, osteopenia can put you at the same risk of damaging your bones.
4 Signs and Symptoms of Osteopenia
How do you know if you have osteopenia? The following are a few signs you may have it.
- Height Loss: If you’ve noticed you’re shrinking, it could be due to a painless (yes, painless!) spinal fracture in your back.
- Brittle Fingernails: If you’re noticing your fingernails are breaking consistently or more easily than before, you could have osteopenia.
- Receding Gum Line: While this doesn’t mean you definitely have osteopenia, when the jaw bone loses density it can take gum with it.
- Decreased Grip Strength: If you find yourself struggling with that peanut butter jar lid or grabbing extra tight on the bathtub to not fall, it could mean osteopenia.
Familiarize yourself some more with the signs and symptoms of osteopenia mentioned above.
While you shouldn’t panic right away if you experience any of these symptoms as a one-off, if they start to occur consistently, talk to your doctor and get a DXA scan!
Bone Mineral Density Testing
The ‘Gold Standard’ for bone mineral density testing is the DXA (formerly known as DEXA) scan. It is able to monitor and diagnose osteopenia by calculating how dense your bones are. After you get your DXA scan you will be given measures called a T-score and a Z-score.
The T-score measures the number of standard deviations your bone density is away from that of a ‘young adult’. It gives you an idea of how you compare to someone who is considered at the peak of their bone health.
The Z-score is a measure of the number of standard deviations your bone density is away from that of the average person your age and gender. This is a good indication of how you fare compared to other people in your age range. But if you are over 50, it’s probably not a score you want to rely heavily on.
A score above -1 means your bone density is considered normal. But if you have a score between -1 and -2.5 it means you have osteopenia.
Learn more about how DXA scans work and who should get one.
Osteopenia Treatment Options
If you’ve been diagnosed with osteopenia, it means you have low bone density. But it does not mean you will inevitably get osteoporosis.
Unfortunately, most doctors will still prescribe the same medications (listed below) for osteopenia as osteoporosis.
- Selective Estrogen Receptor Modulators (SERMs)
- Parathyroid Hormone Therapy (PTH)
- Hormone Therapy HT)
- Strontium Ranelate
View this article for a more in-depth explanation of these medications so you can make an informed decision about your bone health.
Osteopenia doesn’t mean you have full blown osteoporosis, yet. The good news is, there are lifestyle choices that can also combat osteopenia and turn around your bone loss, naturally…
Natural Osteopenia Treatments
There are two types of exercises that are known to benefit bone health:
- Weight-bearing exercises: This is where you body works against gravity to literally bear your own weight. Weight lifting, running and walking all qualify.
- Muscle strengthening exercises: Also known as resistance exercises, these are activities where you move your body, a weight or work against resistance.
Non-impact exercises like posture, core and balance exercises are beneficial, too. However, they are not as beneficial to maintaining or increasing bone density.
Check out our ultimate osteoporosis exercise guide, for step-by-step videos and pictures of fun, easy and effective exercises.
- Protein: Did you know protein makes up about 50% of the volume of your bones, and roughly one-third of total bone mass? That’s why it’s important to keep that composition up! For more information on protein’s importance to your bone matrix and a recommendation of how much you need each day, take a look at our Protein and Bone Health article.
- Calcium: We’ve all heard about it – and know that calcium is a necessary mineral for your bones. Your body uses it for strong and healthy teeth, but it also helps your muscles contract and sending and receiving nerve signals to name a few. Yet, only 32% of adults in the US are getting enough through their diet!Calcium is crucial for bone health, but when you take it together with other important bone-building vitamins and minerals – that’s when the real bone benefits happen. (Continue reading to find out!)
- Vitamin D3: One of the major roles of vitamin D3 is to efficiently utilize calcium for your body. It helps to maintain normal blood levels of calcium and phosphorous and it helps your body absorb calcium.Vitamin D3 is present in small amounts in salmon, sardines, and tuna. Unfortunately, there are very food foods that are good sources of vitamin D3. The best natural source of vitamin D3 is actually the sun – as UV rays from the sun triggers vitamin D production in your skin. However, depending on where you live, the season, time of day, the effect of sunscreen and more, most people are still lacking adequate vitamin D.To combat this, a vitamin D supplement is beneficial. But how do you know how much to supplement with? Well, the best way is to get a circulating vitamin D test, which checks your blood levels of 25(OH)D. This is the major form of vitamin D that circulates in your bloodstream and is a true barometer of your vitamin D status. For more on this test, go to Vitamin D Test – Osteoporosis Diagnosis and Testing.
- Vitamin K2: Vitamin K2 in the form of MK7 is crucial for calcium regulation. Vitamin K2-7 (said differently) transports calcium from your blood and deposits it in your bones. So when looking for a supplement with vitamin K2, make sure it’s in the form of MK7 for optimal bone health. Female adults, classified as 19 years or older, need at least 90 mcg of vitamin K2 per day.
- Trace Minerals: Calcium, magnesium, vitamin D3 and K2 are simply not enough to nourish your bones. Did you know there are 13 bone building vitamins and minerals proven to impact your bone health? Surprising, but true. And that’s why a straight calcium supplement alone can’t provide the support healthy bones need. The 13 you need are calcium, magnesium, boron, copper, manganese, potassium, phosphorous, nickel, vanadium, zinc, silicon, selenium, strontium – and their bone-promoting actions.
You may be thinking, “there’s no way I can take all those vitamins and minerals together”. So that’s why we found a simple way to naturally increase your bone density, that contains all these minerals (and more)…
The Only Clinically Proven Osteopenia Treatment
You now know the importance of trace minerals in your bones. Your bones crave 13 vitamins and minerals to keep on supporting your entire body. So why take a single nutrient solution like your store-bought calcium supplement, when osteopenia is caused by a multi-nutrient shortage?
It’s like trying to bake cookies with only flour! However, you know that you need flour, eggs, sugar, butter and more to bake cookies. And a multi-nutrient approach is really what’s needed for building your bone density. You’ve lost 13 vitamins and minerals – so instead of replacing just one or two, replace all of them!
So how do you do that? We at AlgaeCal discovered an organic, plant-based calcium supplement along the shorelines of South America that mirrors the same nutrient mix in your bones.
It’s straight from a rare kiwi-sized marine algae the locals use to feed their livestock. (Their coats are shinier. They grow faster. And their milk has a higher protein content.)
It’s called Lithothamnion superpositum (or Algas calcareas as the locals call it). And it’s the foundation of the only calcium supplement guaranteed to increase bone density, naturally.
That supplement is AlgaeCal Plus. Here’s how it helps osteopenia:
First off, AlgaeCal Plus contains all 13 minerals your bones need to stay healthy. The algae pre-digests these from the ocean which makes it simple for your body to absorb. (Unlike the rock-based calcium supplements – calcium carbonate and calcium citrate – made from marble and limestone.)
And science backs up the algae’s efficacy for your bones.
Take the study in the International Journal of Medical Sciences, showing 414 postmenopausal women trying different formulations of AlgaeCal Plus for 12 months– and the lowest average increase in bone density was 1.3%.
Another in the International Journal of Medical Sciences, had 216 men and women take AlgaeCal Plus and Strontium Boost for 6 months enjoyed, and on average, participants saw an increase of over 2% in bone density.
You lose about 1% of your bone density every year from age 40 on. Other calcium supplements will at best slow down the bone loss. But AlgaeCal Plus actually increases bone growth!
So one year of bone growth is all fine and well. But what about for the long term? Well, in our most recent clinical study, 172 women in their mid-60s increased bone density for 7 straight years with the AlgaeCal Plus and Strontium Boost combo!
On average they gained 1% a year, every year. That’s shocking, considering nothing to this point could actually build bone. But it’s not only possible with our Bone Builder Packs, it’s guaranteed.
Protect yourself with AlgaeCal Plus and Strontium Boost today and erase the fear of fractures and living with brittle bones for good.
Brittle fingernails. Reduced grip strength. Aches and pains. Receding gum line.
A poor diet devoid of crucial bone vitamins and minerals like calcium, Vitamin D, magnesium, and Vitamin K2. Plus trace minerals like phosphorous, boron, vanadium and strontium, among several others. Lack of exercise. Genetics (family has a history of bone loss). Taking prescription drugs (even including bone growth drugs). Smoking and excessive alcohol consumption. Old age. Overconsumption of sugar. For more information, see this comprehensive list of osteopenia causes.
Women are at greater risk than men. If you have a family history of weak bones, you’re far more susceptible to osteopenia than those without that history. You’re also more likely than the average person to get osteopenia if: You’re a heavy smoker or drinker; you rarely exercise; you suffer from Celiac Disease, Crohn’s or Leukemia; you don’t take supplement with bone healthy ingredients; don’t get enough sun; have a very small body size.
Through a routine bone density scan (DXA scan). Your bone density is reported as a “T-Score”, where a score of ‘-1’ or higher, up to +1, is healthy (when compared to a young adult of your sex).
Osteopenia is associated with a score between -1 and -2.5. It’s not severe enough to be full-blown osteoporosis, but still reflects weak bones.
Prescription drugs and injections: Bisphosphonates; Hormone Replacement Therapy; Teriparatide; Raloxifene; Denosumab; and others. See the Osteopenia Treatment Options section above.
Osteopenia is a serious bone condition that can leave you susceptible to fractures. It’s also a warning sign you’re nearing osteoporosis. Perhaps most importantly, a recent study proved more than half of fragility fractures in women occurred in those with osteopenia, not osteoporosis. Osteopenia sufferers are also at the same risk of further fracture as osteoporotic women. So while osteoporosis is the more “serious” diagnosis- with weaker bones- osteopenia can put you at even greater risk of damaging your bones.
According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, women over 65, postmenopausal women younger than 65 who demonstrate risk factors, and aging men with the same risk factors. Also, if you’re 50 or over and recently fractured a bone.
A DXA (Dual Energy X-ray Absorptiometry) scan is the traditional method of diagnosing osteopenia. There are two kinds: Central and Peripheral. A Central scan analyzes your whole body, whereas a Peripheral focuses on extremities like fingers, wrists and ankles.
Traditional (rock-based) calcium supplements usually contain 1,200mg per day of calcium. But when you use a natural, concentrated form of plant-based calcium like AlgaeCal Plus you can take 38% less calcium per day and get far better results. Since your body recognizes it as food (as opposed to rock) it’s absorbed far better. And remember, the average Standard American Diet provides around 400-500mg of calcium per day. So you’ll still be getting the RDA of calcium through all sources.
Anyone who is diagnosed with osteopenia. Osteopenia is a serious bone condition and it can be treated and reversed with the correct therapy. The only known calcium supplement that can increase bone density—as opposed to just slow down bone loss—is AlgaeCal Plus.
FRAX is the online Fracture Risk Assessment Tool. It’s intended to show you the probability of suffering a fracture in the next ten years based on your current bone mineral density and a string of other personal questions. While widely acknowledged as a World Health Organization (WHO) brainchild, WHO has vehemently denied this amidst outcry from the public and health bodies as misleading. Unfortunately, its readings make dangerous assumptions and oversights, like body mass index and mortality rate being equal between racial and ethnic groups. It also excludes other variables known to affect fracture risk, and scientific journal Current Osteoporosis Reports warns “…the values obtained from FRAX should not take the place of good clinical judgement.”
The bottom line is, medical professionals themselves don’t know how the tool was created or exactly how the analysis is performed, so it’s best not to use it if you want to definitively know your fracture risk.