What is Osteopenia?

Osteopenia is a condition where your body doesn’t create new bone cells as fast as it reabsorbs old bone cells. It is similar to osteoporosis, but not as severe; however, it can turn into osteoporosis if steps are not taken to fix the reason for the bone loss.

Causes may include a lack of calcium in the diet, smoking, hormone imbalances or age-related changes and some medications. People who have lacked nutrients in the diet or experienced an eating disorder may be at higher risk.

Women are more likely than men to develop osteopenia or osteoporosis. Caucasians and Asians are more likely than other races to develop osteopenia.

What are the Symptoms of Osteopenia?

Most people with osteopenia have no symptoms. You may not know that you have it until you begin to experience bone fragility or minor breaks in the bone. This usually doesn’t occur until you have developed osteoporosis.

Your doctor can perform a bone density scan to evaluate you for osteopenia. Women who are over 65 should have this screening done to see if you have bone loss or are at risk.

How is Osteopenia Treated?

The main treatment for osteopenia is to take steps to prevent increased loss of bone density. This may mean better attention to diet and the inclusion of more calcium-rich foods. Your doctor may recommend additional vitamin D and a mineral supplement or may prescribe medication that can help slow bone loss.

Weight-bearing exercise can also help increase bone density, or at least, slow the rate of bone loss. Walking, hiking, bouncing on a mini trampoline and light weight lifting can all help to increase bone density. A physical therapist can instruct you in exercises that can most effectively help you at your current level of fitness.

Quitting smoking and avoiding beverages with alcohol and caffeine may help you to feel more healthy and improve your bone health.

Last Reviewed:
October 10, 2016
Last Updated:
August 18, 2017