Osteoporosis and Osteopenia


When thinking about your overall health and well-being, having strong bones is an important component of staying well. While it may be known that having weak bones puts a person at a greater risk for injury from falls, it also can increase the chance of other types of complications.

Osteoporosis is a disease involving weak bones. However, the term osteopenia is not commonly known. Osteopenia and osteoporosis are related diseases. Both are characterized by varying degrees of bone loss, as measured by a bone mineral density test, which is a marker for how strong a bone is.

Osteoporosis is a disease that causes bones to become weak and brittle – so brittle that a fall or even mild stresses such as bending over or coughing can cause a fracture.

Osteopenia is when someone has lower than normal bone density but not low enough to be considered osteoporosis. The diagnostic difference between the two is the measure of bone mineral density.

Bone is living tissue that is constantly being broken down and replaced. Bones naturally become thinner as people grow older because beginning at about age 30, existing bone cells are reabsorbed by the body faster than new bone is made.

Osteopenia, like osteoporosis, is diagnosed with a bone density test. If you’re older than 30, it’s still not too late to make lifestyle changes. A balanced diet and regular exercise will help slow the loss of bone density, and delay or prevent osteoporosis. Mille Lacs Health System offers bone density testing. We care about your health. Speak to your healthcare provider today to get your bone density checked.

Having a lower bone density can be contributed to many things such as:

  • Long-term use of corticosteroids for inflammatory conditions or anticonvulsants for pain or seizures.
  • Eating disorders or diseases that affect the absorption of nutrients from food.
  • Having a family history of osteoporosis.
  • Being thin, Caucasian, or Asian.
  • Getting limited physical activity.
  • Smoking.
  • Regularly drinking cola drinks.
  • Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol.

The best way to reduce your chances of getting osteoporosis or osteopenia is to regularly exercise and to eat a well-balanced diet that is rich in calcium or vitamin D.