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.
Don’t panic if you have osteopenia though, bone loss is not inevitable!
But if you don’t address the cause of your bone loss you’ll be at greater risk of osteoporosis and resulting fractures.
In fact, women with osteopenia represent approximately 50% of the total population at risk for fractures.¹ Plus, those with osteopenia who’ve 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.
- Pasco, J. A., Seeman, E., Henry, M. J. et al. (2006). The population burden of fractures originates in women with osteopenia, not osteoporosis. Osteoporosis Int. 17, 1404. doi:10.1007/s00198-006-0135-9
- Eriksen E. F. (2012). Treatment of osteopenia. Reviews in endocrine & metabolic disorders, 13(3), 209–223. doi:10.1007/s11154-011-9187-z
- Promislow, J. H. E., Goodman-Gruen, D., Slymen, D. J., Barrett-Connor, E. (2002). Protein Consumption and Bone Mineral Density in the Elderly: The Rancho Bernardo Study. American Journal of Epidemiology, 155(7), 636–644. doi:10.1093/aje/155.7.636
- Bailey, R. L., Dodd, K. W., Goldman, J. A., Gahche, J. J., Dwyer, J. T., Moshfegh, A. J., … Picciano, M. F. (2010). Estimation of total usual calcium and vitamin D intakes in the United States. The Journal of nutrition, 140(4), 817–822. doi:10.3945/jn.109.118539
- Caudill, M. A. (2012). Biochemical, physiological, and molecular aspects of human nutrition. Elsevier - Health Sciences Div.
- Examine.com. (2018, June 14). Vitamin K Supplement - Science-based Review on Benefits, Dosage, Side Effects. Retrieved from https://examine.com/supplements/vitamin-k/.
- Kaats, G. R., Preuss, H. G., Croft, H. A., et al. (2011). A comparative effectiveness study of bone density changes in women over 40 following three bone health plans containing variations of the same novel plant-sourced calcium. Int J Med Sci 8, 180–191. doi: 10.7150/ijms.8.180
- Michalek, J. E., Preuss, H. G., Croft, H. A., et al. (2011). Changes in total body bone mineral density following a common bone health plan with two versions of a unique bone health supplement: a comparative effectiveness research study. Nutr J 10, 32. doi: 10.1186/1475-2891-10-32
- Kaats, G. R., Preuss, H. G., Stohs, S., Perricone, N., et al. (2016). A 7-year longitudinal trial of the safety and efficacy of a vitamin/mineral enhanced plant-sourced calcium supplement. Nutr J 2, 91. doi: 10.1080/07315724.2015.1090357
Brittle fingernails. Reduced grip strength. Aches and pains. Receding gum line.
A poor diet lacking 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 (if your family has a history of bone loss, you could be at greater risk). Taking prescription drugs (even some prescription bone-growth drugs can cause bone loss). 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 a supplement with bone-healthy ingredients; don’t get enough sun; or have a very small body size.
Through a routine bone density scan (DEXA 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.
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 DEXA (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 more benefits. 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.
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.