Our bones are at their densest when we are around age 30. Unfortunately, as we age, bone loss can set in if the body makes less new bone tissue than the old bone it absorbs. If bone loss occurs, our bones become thinner, weaker and less dense than normal. This condition is called osteopenia, which is a middle stage between healthy, strong, dense bones and full-blown osteoporosis, a condition of weak, brittle, porous bones that are prone to fracture. Both conditions result in part from a lack of adequate calcium intake as we age.
Typically occurring in people after age 50, osteopenia is more common in women, probably because the hormonal changes that occur after menopause can raise a woman’s risk of developing bone loss. Men with low testosterone levels are also at higher risk for bone loss. There are no early symptoms of bone loss, and often a person does not know his or her bones are fragile until a fracture occurs. However, bone scans can indicate if a person’s bone density is lower than normal.
Bone loss can be slowed and managed with proper diet, exercise and medications, if appropriate. If you are middle aged or older and concerned about bone loss, talk to your healthcare provider and ask about the appropriateness of having a bone density scan.