What Is Osteopenia?

You may know what osteoporosis is, but osteopenia is not so well recognised.


Osteopenia is when your bones are weaker than normal but not so far gone that they break easily, which is the hallmark of osteoporosis.

Think of it as a midpoint between having healthy bones and having osteoporosis.

Your bones are usually at their densest when you’re about 30. Osteopenia, if it happens at all, usually occurs after age 50. The exact age depends how strong your bones are when you’re young. If they’re hardy, you may never get osteopenia. If your bones aren’t naturally dense, you may get it earlier.

Osteopenia — or seeing it turn into osteoporosis for that matter — is not inevitable.

Diet, exercise, and having the right hormone balance and essential bone building components can help keep your bones dense and strong for decades.

Who is most likely to get It?

This condition happens when your body gets rid of more bone than it is creating. This is because two separate and very different elements are at play: osteoblasts help build bone and osteoclasts help remove old bone so. there is space for new bone.

Hormone changes that happen at menopause increase the chance for osteopenia and osteoporosis for women as generally their progesterone levels are low and so osteoblast levels are not good as progesterone is the hormone that encourages them.

If oestrogen levels are high, as with oestrogen dominance, and not balanced by progesterone the the osteoclasts become too active and more bone is destroyed than is being built up.

Some people are genetically prone to it, with a family history of the condition. You’re also more likely to get it if you’re a woman as we have lower bone mass than men.

Also, women live longer, which means their bones age more, and they usually don’t get as much calcium as men.

Medical causes

Sometimes, you may have a medical condition or treatment that can trigger the condition.

Eating disorders, such as anorexia and bulimia, can starve your body of nutrients needed to keep bones strong.

Other causes include:

  • Untreated coeliac disease. People with this condition can damage their small intestine by eating foods with gluten in them.
  • An overactive thyroid plus too much thyroid medication can also play a role.
  • Chemotherapy and exposure to radiation can have an effect.
  • Certain medications including steroids such as hydrocortisone or prednisone and anti-seizure drugs.


Lifestyle causes

You may have no genetic vulnerability or any of the medication issues, but don’t underestimate the effect of your lifestyle.

Problems in your diet, lack of exercise, and unhealthy habits can contribute to this condition.

Watch out for:

  • A lack of calcium or vitamin D
  • Not enough exercise, especially strength training
  • Smoking
  • Too much alcohol
  • Carbonated drinks


Helpful information: 

Obviously you can do little about genetic components or necessary medication, but certainly there is much you can do to make yourself less vulnerable to osteopenia or osteoporosis.

Hormone balance is the first and most essential component because if you are oestrogen dominant and low in progesterone then you will be losing bone faster than you can replace it.

After hormone balance comes the other essential bone building nutrients needed such as vitamin D, essential bone nutrients vitamins C, D and K and minerals Calcium, Magnesium, Boron and Manganese.