Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Get the Background Information on Osteopenia and Osteoporosis

A diagnosis of osteopenia means that your bones are getting thinner, weaker, and less dense. It’s time to find an osteopenia treatment or your next stop will be osteoporosis.

Osteoporosis means that your bone density is dangerously weak and there is an increasing possibility of fracture. One out of two women and one in eight men over age 50 will have an osteoporosis-related fracture in their lifetime.

It’s the fractures that are dangerous. Hip fractures are the ones that often lead to death because you need lengthy bed rest to recover. Lying down for long stretches of time will encourage more weakness, strokes and pneumonia.

So it’s not actually the fracture that kills you. But it will immobilize you and,if you survive, you have a much greater chance of having another fracture within a year.
Part of this is the fear factor. When our bones have betrayed us we have less confidence in our movement.

Osteoporosis is called the Silent Killer because it usually doesn’t hurt to have weaker bones. It's not until the doctor orders a bone density test of some kind that you find out you are losing bone. The other way to find out is to measure your height. As your spine loses substance you will get shorter.

Up until recently there was no osteoporosis treatment offered. It was considered a natural effect of aging. Then the drug companies introduced the bi-phosphonate drugs.

Since then, fortunately, other natural solutions were found and they are the subject of my other articles in this series.

Bone Density Tests and What They Reveal

Bone Mineral Density (BMD) tests are used to assess bone density. Results are defined as a T-score, with normal being between 2.5 and minus 1.0, osteopenia between minus 1.0 and minus 2.5, and osteoporosis lower than minus 2.5.

The two most common tests of bone density are DXA at your hip or spine and QUS at your ankle.

Dual energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA). This is the most accurate test available, it can detect even a 1 percent change in bone density. It's most often used to measure your bone density at your hip or spine. This test involves a small amount of radiation.

QUS test - instead of radiation, this test estimates bone density using ultrasound measurements. After placing your bare foot on the machine, high-frequency sound waves are transmitted through your heel. It is an inexpensive test, often found in drug stores, and will give you a beginning score to know if you have a problem or not.

Bone density testing is recommended if:

1. You're a woman, age 65 or older

2. You're 60 and at increased risk of osteoporosis

3. You're a postmenopausal woman who has recently fractured a bone

4. You're a younger postmenopausal woman with other risk factors for osteoporosis

The bad thing about the bone density tests is that they test density and not flexibility. When we have too much calcium in our bones they are dense but brittle and we have more fractures. No-one has yet figured out a way to test the flexibility of bone, so the experts don’t say much about it. But that is why the studies can’t prove that taking more calcium actually lowers fracture rate. Read the calcium/magnesium article for more on this topic.

Risk Factors

Your risk of osteoporosis increases if you're a woman and you're white or Asian. Other factors also increase your risk, including:

A history of falls or bone fractures as an adult
Family history of osteoporosis, especially your mother
Early onset of menopause
Low calcium and vitamin D intake
Low body weight or weight loss
Not enough physical activity
Late onset of first period
Caffeine intake
Muscle weakness
Low estrogen levels

How Living Bone Is Created

The way bone-building works is that our bones are living structures with osteoblasts busy building bone, and osteoclasts just as busy tearing down the old so there is room for the new. Up until the age of thirty five or so there is a balance. As we get older that balance is disrupted. Osteoporosis occurs when bone is broken down faster than it is rebuilt. The reason why greater loss occurs after menopause is that our hormones somehow block the breakdown. That is why hormone therapy used to be recommended to help protect against osteoporosis.

Biphosphonate drugs, like Fosamax, are poisons that selectively kill off osteoclasts. So they stop the bones from tearing down the old but they don’t do anything to help build new bone. Your bones may look denser to the testing machines but they are dense with old bone that should have been cleared away. They are brittle, not flexible.

Natural Solutions

Bone changes don’t happen overnight. When you decide on an osteopenia treatment you should wait for one year and then get tested again. If there is no actual change in the numbers, this is still an improvement. If left untended your bones would get weaker every year, so no change at all is better than that. However most of the osteoporosis treatment in the following articles will produce significant improvement in bone over a five year period, or even more if you incorporate them all gradually into your life.

Since they are natural solutions, co-operating with your internal health mechanisms, they will also bring unexpected improvements in other areas, like balance, confidence, muscle strength and enjoyment of life.

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