What is osteopenia?

Osteopenia refers to bone density that is lower than normal peak density but not low enough to be classified as osteoporosis. Bone density is a measurement of how dense and strong the bones are. If your bone density is low compared to normal peak density, you are said to have osteopenia. Having osteopenia means there is a greater risk that, as time passes, you may develop bone density that is very low compared to normal, known as osteoporosis.

Bones naturally become thinner as people grow older because, beginning in middle age, existing bone cells are reabsorbed by the body faster than new bone is made. As this occurs, the bones lose minerals, heaviness (mass), and structure, making them weaker and increasing their risk of breaking. All people begin losing bone mass after they reach peak bone density at about 30 years of age. The thicker your bones are at about age 30, the longer it takes to develop osteopenia orosteoporosis.

Some people who have osteopenia may not have bone loss. They may just naturally have a lower bone density. Osteopenia may also be the result of a one or more other conditions, disease processes, or treatments. Women are far more likely to develop osteopenia and osteoporosis than men. This is because women have a lower peak bone density and because the loss of bone mass speeds up as hormonal changes take place at the time of menopause.