Osteopenia – Causes, management options, and recommended meal plan Health

Osteopenia – Causes, management options, and recommended meal plan

Bones are to the body what bricks are to buildings – they provide the body with a definite structure and support the body’s frame. Additionally, they store fats and minerals and facilitate blood-cell development. Consequently, health conditions concerning the bones must be treated at the earliest to avoid further complications. This article provides information on osteopenia, one such bone condition, describing its causes, symptoms, and treatment options, as well as foods to eat and lifestyle tips.

What is Osteopenia?
Osteopenia is characterized by low bone density due to the weakening of the bones. Although the bones turn brittle due to calcium deficiency, they are not susceptible to breakage. The primary difference between osteopenia and osteoporosis is that while the former involves low bone density as a part of the aging process, the latter is a more severe condition in which the bones are likely to fracture. Osteopenia may sometimes – though not always – be a precursor to osteoporosis.

Causes of Osteopenia
Aging is one of the most common causes of osteopenia. Loss of bone minerals often leads to brittle bones during old age. The body’s bone density is lowered when old bones are destroyed more rapidly than it builds new ones, leading to osteopenia.

Another cause of osteopenia that is closely associated with aging is menopause. According to research, 20% of bone loss occurs during menopause. Menopause is characterized by a significant decrease in estrogen and other hormone levels in the body over time, contributing to the loss of bone density and osteopenia.

Inadequate consumption of calcium-rich foods
The body requires calcium in adequate quantities to maintain bone strength and prevent bone-related ailments. Thus, a lack of calcium in your meals can contribute to low bone density and bone brittleness over time.

Genetic predisposition
Several studies indicate that individuals with a family history of osteopenia and low bone density are more susceptible to the disease. An interplay of genetic and environmental factors is believed to be responsible for the onset of osteopenia.

Symptoms of Osteopenia
There are no apparent symptoms of osteopenia. A screening test can be performed to diagnose and treat the condition and prevent it from causing further complications.

Treatment options and remedies

Calcium intake
A meal plan rich in calcium is the foundation for strengthening the bones. Most healthcare professionals suggest the intake of calcium-rich foods like dairy and dairy products (unless the patient is lactose intolerant); green, leafy vegetables like broccoli, collards, and kale; some fish varieties such as salmon and sardines; soybeans; and some fruits like blackberries, oranges, and blackcurrants. OTC calcium supplements can also help strengthen the bones.

Vitamin D intake
Although calcium foods and supplements can help with osteopenia, vitamin D is essential to absorb calcium. Vitamin D can be obtained from certain foods, such as cod liver oil, salmon, sardines, beef liver, soy products, and fortified cereals and juices. Exposure to sunlight can also help increase vitamin D levels, ensuring more efficient calcium absorption.

Regular exercise
Regular moderate-intensity exercises like brisk walking, jogging, and low-impact aerobics can strengthen the bones in various body parts, including the hips, legs, and spine. However, it helps individuals with osteopenia to avoid high-intensity exercises and deep stretches that may cause bone injuries.

Fall prevention
Studies have demonstrated that falls are responsible for 90% of hip and distal radius fractures. Fall prevention becomes all the more significant for individuals with osteopenia who already have weak bones. Engaging in balance and strength-training exercises, fall-proofing your home, and ensuring controlled movements and postures can help prevent falls.

Foods to Avoid

Caffeine can reduce bone density, particularly among women in the postmenopausal stage. Consuming excessive caffeinated beverages like tea and coffee can deplete calcium from the bones, causing them to become brittle.

Consuming excessive sugary foods and beverages can increase blood glucose levels, affecting bone formation. It helps to avoid all sources of added sugar, replacing them with natural sources like fruits and some vegetables.

Salty foods
Sodium, an integral component of salt, causes the expulsion of calcium from the body, hampering osteopenia treatment and further weakening the bones. Although small quantities of salt may be added to food, one must avoid excessive salt, typically present in processed and fast foods.
The treatment course for osteopenia typically involves preventing the condition from advancing to osteoporosis. Doctors often suggest basic lifestyle changes such as following a wholesome, calcium-rich meal plan; avoiding processed foods; and staying physically active. Preserving bone density is the primary goal while treating this condition.