Most people commonly associate low bone mass with osteoporosis, a disease characterized by a drastic loss in bone density causing bones to become brittle and fragile. There is also a lesser-known condition called osteopenia that affects nearly half of adults over the age of 50 and is the result of bone densities that are at less than peak levels but have not yet degraded to the point of osteoporosis.
Osteopenia, and consequently osteoporosis, is typically more common in women than men as females start with peak levels of bone densities much lower than their male counterparts. Bone densities naturally start declining with age and since there are typically no symptoms associated with low bone mass, aside from potential fractures, Bone Mineral Density (BMD) testing can help diagnose these conditions before it is too late.
While the presence of osteopenia does not always lead to osteoporosis, it can be a precursor to the disease so knowing common risk factors associated with low bone mass can trigger diet and lifestyle changes that can help prevent the onset of osteoporosis or slow the loss of bone mass as one ages.
Common Risk Factors
- Calcium or vitamin D deficiencies
- Lack of weight-bearing exercise
- Drinking excessive amounts of soda
- A diet lacking proper nutrition
- Alcohol abuse
- Eating disorders
- Radiation exposure
- Family history
- Following a nutritionally balanced diet that includes proper daily values of calcium and vitamin D
- Exercising regularly with weight-bearing activities
- Limiting consumption of alcohol and soda
- Eliminating tobacco use
- Taking appropriate medications when needed as prescribed by a physician
If osteopenia or osteoporosis runs in your family, or one or more of the common risk factors associated with both conditions apply to you, discuss your bone health with your primary care physician.