If you’re among the millions of people who’ve been told they have osteopenia, I know it can be confusing and scary. But you’ve come to the right place.
I talk all the time with women wondering what to do next when they get diagnosed with osteopenia.
I always start with this:
Osteopenia does not mean you will always suffer from osteoporosis or a fracture. Osteopenia means that your bone density measurement is less, but not excessively less, than a woman who is 30 years old. And what that really signifies for you will depend on your individual body type, lifestyle, history and many factors you can take control of right now.
5 steps to build stronger bones
Don’t miss our helpful infographic below and feel free to share!
Here’s what you can do to make sure your bones are getting everything they need to stay strong.
1. Get the correct amount of key bone building nutrients.
- Eat a wholesome alkaline diet and try high quality nutritional supplementation. Be sure the supplements you use are designed to alkalize so they spare both bone and muscle.
- Make sure your mineral intake is adequate. This can be easily done by measuring your first morning urine pH. A first morning urine pH reading of 6.5 to 7.5 suggests you’re obtaining adequate minerals from your diet and supplements.
- Test your vitamin D level and supplement with enough to reach a 50 to 60 ng blood level all year round.
2. Build muscle strength. Chronically low muscle mass is associated with low bone mass. Even stronger grip strength and stronger back muscles are associated with higher bone density. If you have been told you have osteopenia in the hip, try to walk more, hop, do heel drops, and jump if you can. All provide bone-stimulating impact to the hip. Also consider using a weighted vest when walking. It makes each step deliver a greater bone stimulating impact to hip.
3. Avoid bone depleting anti-nutrients. The list is long so you might have to pick away at bone depleting anti-nutrients little by little. High on the list are excessive alcohol (more than two drinks a day), smoking, colas, excessive caffeine, and high sugar intake. Many drugs and medications damage bone and the list seems to expand daily. Steroid drugs such as prednisone rank as the top drug bone-busters, causing roughly 20% of all osteoporosis in the U.S.
4. Eat enough wholesome food daily. The body is one single unit; if you lose weight you lose bone. The bone weakening from weight loss before menopause is more easily compensated for than that from weight loss after menopause. Make sure you get between 50 and 80 grams of protein daily, depending on your physical activity level.
5. If needed, work with your doctor to see if there’s any medical cause for osteopenia. If you have ongoing excessive bone loss as measured either by sequential bone density testing or by a bone breakdown marker test such as the NTx , or if you have experienced a low-trauma fracture, steps should be taken to detect hidden causes of this bone loss. My Medical Osteoporosis Workup details the most common tests used to detect hidden secondary causes of bone loss. You might share this document with your health practitioner and see which tests they will do looking for your hidden causes of bone loss.
As you can see, you aren’t powerless when it comes to building stronger bones — even if you’ve been diagnosed with osteopenia. Consider this a window of opportunity to make some nutritional and lifestyle changes. My Better Bones Builder Program is a great place to start, because it puts everything together for you.
Read more: What does osteopenia really mean?
See why osteopenia doesn’t always mean you’ll suffer from osteoporosis or fracture — or that you will need a bone drug.
Alonso-Coello, P et al. 2008. Drugs for pre-osteoporosis: Prevention or disease mongering? BMJ 336:126. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.39435.656250.AD
Looker, AC et al. 2010. Prevalence and trends in low femur bone density among older U.S. adults: NHANES 2005–2006 compared with NHANES 111. J Bone Miner Res 25 (1):64–71.
Petersen, BA et al. 2017. Low load, high repetition resistance training program increases bone mineral density in untrained adults. J Sports Med Phys Fitness 57(1–2):70–76.
I’m Dr. Susan Brown. I am a nutritionist, medical anthropologist, writer, and speaker. Get my free weekly newsletter here.