Osteopenia: Precursor to osteoporosis

By Britney Glaser - bio | email

LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - Osteopenia is oftentimes a silent disease until you develop a fracture. It's the precursor to osteoporosis and as we find out in this morning's Healthcast, if you are at risk for developing this bone loss condition you can halt it now by creating some healthier habits.

"Midday" host Mari Wilson is an active 40ish woman who never really thought she would be on the other side of the camera talking about her own health issue.  "I thought at my age that I wouldn't really have any problems," she says, "but it did turn out that I had already started to lose a little bit of density."

Mari has an overactive thyroid.  A bone density scan at age 40 showed that this led her to a condition called osteopenia. Lake Charles Memorial Hospital Radiologist, Dr. Richard Martinez says, "Osteopenia is a condition with a transition period between regular bone density and osteoporosis when there's a loss of bone density below what would be normal - but not yet reaching what we would call osteoporosis."

Dr. Martinez says females are at a greater risk than males to develop this progressive disease. If you have a family history, dietary disorder or inactive lifestyle - you should consider having a bone density scan if you are 60 years old.  If you are like Mari - and have an underlying medical condition or a thin frame, the scan should be done earlier than 60.

The good news is that with some lifestyle changes, you can actually reverse and halt the loss of bone density.  "We generally start with more conservative measures such as dietary supplements with calcium and vitamin D," says Dr. Martinez, "weight-bearing exercise, for patients who smoke - of course, stopping smoking and limiting alcohol intake."

If these measures aren't taken, your bones are at a greater risk of becoming more thin and brittle.  "I've never broken a bone," says Mari, "and I don't really want to, so if I could avoid that I would certainly like to!"

Mari will have to undergo a bone density scan every few years to make sure she stays in check and Dr. Martinez says if she continues to exercise and take her supplements, she's on track to reversing her own bone loss.

*If the conservative treatment measures don't work, bone-strengthening medications will be prescribed.

**To schedule an appointment for a bone density test, call The Breast Health Center at LCMH for women at 480-7444.

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