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The latest on osteopenia treatment

Created date

April 23rd, 2013
Healthy bones

May is National Osteoporosis Awareness and Prevention month. According to the National Institute on Aging, over ten million Americans (mostly women) have this disease, which results in thin, weak bones and can lead to fractures. Even more Americans (34 million) have low bone mass.

Low bone mass is called osteopenia. Bone loss has begun, but it has not progressed to the dangerous levels of osteoporosis. It can be a precursor to osteoporosis if not treated. But how much treatment is really necessary? There have been some changes in the last few years, especially with regard to prescribing osteoporosis medication, specifically bisphosphonates and other bone-building drugs. Some of these drugs carry serious risks, such as blood clots and (oddly enough) the risk of fractures.

Diet and exercise

Research has demonstrated the value of a good diet, calcium and vitamin D, and weight-bearing exercise on slowing or stopping the progression of osteopenia to osteoporosis. The addition of prescription drugs has not been shown, however, to reduce fractures enough to justify the potentially harmful side effects.

Osteopenia is not a one-size-fits-all disease, and some people may still benefit from prescription medication. Two people with the same bone density may differ with regard to their actual risk of fracture, based on other factors such as bone density test score, family history, previous fractures, a history of smoking, or taking certain medications such as steroids.

Talk to your doctor about your risks of osteoporosis and what you need to do to prevent this disease.