Osteopenia vs Osteoporosis

Bone density screening can detect early signs of osteoporosis, so that you and your healthcare provider can take steps to combat the disease - increasing your chances of remaining mobile later in life.

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Medically reviewed by Dr. Andy Manganaro, MD, FACS, FACC

Published on 7/21/2021

Osteoporosis and Osteopenia

Osteopenia and osteoporosis can affect you if you have begun losing bone mass or never reached peak bone mass. The most common cause of bone loss is aging. According to Harvard Medical School, half of Americans over the age of 50 have osteopenia. 1

If you are a woman experiencing menopause, you are at even higher risk. Estrogen helps make and rebuild bones, so when estrogen levels decrease during menopause, bone loss speeds up. This is why osteopenia and osteoporosis are most common among older women. 2

You might be asking, exactly what is the difference between osteoporosis and osteopenia and is it reversible?


Osteoporosis vs Osteopenia

Osteopenia and osteoporosis are diseases related to bone loss. Bone loss begins naturally after bone mass development has peaked. The average age of peak bone mass growth is 35. 3

The difference between the two diseases is that if you have osteopenia, you have less severe bone loss than if you have osteoporosis. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the only way to diagnosis the difference between osteoporosis and osteopenia is by the results of bone mineral density (BMD) screening. T-score results between -1 to -2.5 are considered osteopenia, while a value less than -2.5 is considered osteoporosis. 4


What is Osteopenia

Osteopenia can lead to osteoporosis without intervention or treatment. You may experience no symptoms, which is why bone density screening is recommended for all women age 65 and older and all men age 70 and older.5

The National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF) also recommends screenings for postmenopausal women under 65 who have one or more risk factors, including being thin and those who have had a fracture. 6

While the weak bones of osteopenia don’t typically result in fractures, the brittle bones of osteoporosis do. It’s important to prevent the progression of osteopenia to osteoporosis, which results in lower mobility and high medical bills. While osteopenia can be treated, it becomes more difficult as you age. 7


Osteopenia Treatment

Since bone density is determined by the amount of calcium packed into your bones, it’s important to have a diet that includes the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of calcium of 1000-1200 mg for most people8. Milk, yogurt, and cheese are excellent sources of calcium as are sardines and tofu. You can find many cereals and juices that are fortified with calcium.

Cereals and juices are also often fortified with vitamin D, which helps the body absorb calcium. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), you can get vitamin D in three ways: diet, supplements, and through the skin from sunlight.9 Vitamin D-rich foods include egg yolks, saltwater fish, liver, and fortified milk.

The RDA for vitamin D is 600 international units (IU) up to age 70 and 800 IU per day for adults over age 70. To supplement a deficiency, speak with your doctor first. The Institute of Medicine recommends no more than 4,000 IU per day for adults.9

The RDA for vitamin D is 600 international units (IU) up to age 70 and 800 IU per day for adults over age 70. To supplement a deficiency, speak with your doctor first. The Institute of Medicine recommends no more than 4,000 IU per day for adults.10

A good rule of thumb to remember is that if your feet are touching the ground during exercise, it’s probably weight-bearing. Activities such as running and walking are weight-bearing; swimming and biking are not.


Osteoporosis Risk Screening

Bone density screening can detect early signs of osteoporosis, so that you and your healthcare provider can take steps to combat the disease - increasing your chances of remaining mobile later in life.11

If you are age 50 or older and are at risk of osteoporosis, you may also be at risk of stroke and cardiovascular disease. Life Line Screening offers a package of 5 screenings in 1 appointment to identify risks of stroke, cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis.

Learn more or schedule a screening today at lifelinescreening.com — or give us a call at 888.683.4070. We'd love to help.

Sources

1 Bone density test score determines whether you have osteopenia or osteoporosis.

2 Osteoporosis and Aging

3 What is Osteopenia

4 Continuing education activity

5 Should I get a bone mineral density test

6 Question and answer with Bart Clarke, M.D., Endocrinology, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn.

7 Recommended intake

8 Am I getting enough vitamin D

9 Calcium and vitamin D: Important at every age.

10 Risk factors & Treatment for Osteopenia

11 We recommend following up with your physician if our bone density screening shows you are at risk of osteoporosis. Your physician may run an additional bone density test to determine a more specific level of risk for osteoporosis. 

Topics:

Osteoporosis

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Screening package includes

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Osteoporosis