Bone density is a measure of how strong and durable your bones are. Osteopenia is diagnosed when density levels drop, but aren’t quite low enough for an osteoporosis diagnosis. Bones naturally weaken with age as bone cells become reabsorbed into the body quicker than they are reproduced causing them to become weaker and more likely to break during normal everyday activity.
Why Are Women More Susceptible?
About HALF of Americans over the age of 50 get osteopenia! However, women tend to develop osteopenia/porosis much more often than men due to lower peak bone densities and the hormonal effects of menopause. Peak bone density occurs around the age of 30-35 and then begins to decline thereafter. So, young folks out there: try to do whatever you can to attain the highest possible bone density by age 30 to help prevent the natural decline as you age!
Am I at Risk?
Risk factors include, but are not limited to:
• diet low in calcium/vitamin D
• regularly drinking colas
• family history
• heavy drinking
• removal of ovaries before menopause.
• steroid usage
• metabolic disorders
• GENETICS! Approximately 50-85% of bone mass density is genetic, so take heed if your mother or father suffered from osteoporosis.
Lifestyle changes can stop and/or reduce the progression of osteopenia/osteoporosis. Although some cases may require medication, there are many ways to stop or reduce the progression of bone density loss!
What Can You Do?
But unfortunately not just any exercise counts. Weight-bearing activity is critical, so things like swimming, cycling, etc while they have their own benefits with regards to osteoporosis resistance training is number 1.
Strength training helps prevent osteopenia/osteoporosis by adding stress to the bone causing it to grow stronger and denser – it is basically that simple. Ask your bones to handle higher load and they will respond by building themselves stronger!
Weight bearing is key, but jumping has higher force than jogging so jumping triggers more bone growth for instance, so plyometric movements are particularly effective for improving bone density!
*It’s important to note that for someone currently diagnosed with osteopenia or osteoporosis you should consult your physician before engaging in high intensity exercise given the risks*
Get a Little Sunshine!
About 50% of people worldwide are low in vitamin D due to a combination of living in places with very little sun in the winter along with concerns around skin cancer many have avoided any sun exposure without sunscreen. Merely 10 or 15 minutes a day is enough for significant vitamin D levels!