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What is Osteopenia?

Osteopenia is a condition that occurs when bone mass is lost, and the bones become weaker than normal. This occurs when calcium loss causes the insides of your bones to become brittle. If left untreated, the condition can worsen and result in osteoporosis, which increases the risk of fractures.

Causes of Osteopenia

The exact causes of osteopenia are unknown. Factors that may trigger the condition include:

  • Genetics
  • Eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia
  • Untreated celiac disease
  • An overactive thyroid
  • Exposure to radiation
  • Certain medications like hydrocortisone or prednisone and anti-seizure drugs
  • A lack of calcium or vitamin D
  • Not enough exercise, especially strength training
  • Smoking
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Carbonated beverages

Symptoms of Osteopenia

Osteopenia doesn’t usually cause symptoms. Broken bones and fractures are possible, but they are more likely to occur once you have osteoporosis.

Diagnosis of Osteopenia

A bone mineral density test will be performed by your doctor to determine if you have osteopenia. Bone mineral density is a measurement of bone mass and strength. Dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DEXA or DXA) test is the common method of measuring bone mineral density. It measures the density of your bones in your hips, spine, shin, finger, shin, or heel using low-radiation X-rays.

Treatment for Osteopenia

Treatments for osteopenia include:

  • Osteopenia Diet: Your doctor will also advise you on how to increase your calcium and vitamin D intake. Calcium is found in dairy products such as yogurt, cheese, and milk. Calcium can also be found in dried beans, salmon, spinach, and broccoli. Calcium, vitamin D, or both may be added to several foods, such as orange juice, bread, and dry cereals. Your doctor may suggest a vitamin D or calcium supplement as well.
  • Exercises: Osteopenia can be prevented and treated through exercise. Regular exercise can prevent further bone loss and may improve bone density. Muscle-strengthening and weight-bearing exercises should be included in the workout program. The following are examples of muscle-strengthening exercises:
    • Hip Abductor strengthening: Hip abductors help to strengthen your hips and improve your balance. Hold the back of a chair for support while raising your leg to the side and lowering it about 10 times keeping the leg as straight as possible.
    • Toe and Heel Raise: Toe and heel raises improve strength and balance in the lower legs. To perform these exercises, rise up on your toes and heels about 10-15 times while holding on to the back of a chair for support. Do these on a daily basis. If you have foot pain, you should do this exercise in shoes.
    • Prone Leg Lifts: Prone leg lifts stretch the front of your thighs while strengthening your lower back and buttocks. Lie on your stomach and raise one leg off the floor for a count of 2 seconds. Do about 10 repetitions with each leg. This workout should be done two to three times a week.


Doctors may recommend medicine if you have been diagnosed with osteopenia and a bone fracture. Bisphosphonates, a class of medicines that works by blocking bone reabsorption, may be prescribed.


Osteopenia can be prevented by:

  • Stopping smoking
  • Drinking alcohol in moderation
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Getting regular exercise.
  • Consuming enough calcium and vitamin D through foods or supplements.
  • Reducing phosphate-containing soda
  • Limiting salt use