While osteopenia is a serious condition on its own, leaving it untreated can allow the disease to spawn more serious complications. Fortunately, osteopenia is highly manageable and even small changes can have an impact. With a few basic lifestyle changes you can dramatically improve your quality of life and keep your diagnosis under control.
Know Your Enemy
It’s a simple fact that in order to correctly handle a condition, you must know exactly what you’re dealing with. It’s common for patients to confuse osteopenia and osteoporosis, as both words are derived from “osteon,” a Greek word for bone. While the conditions are related, they are different and warrant their own unique approach.
An osteopenia diagnosis is characterized by a low mineral density in the bones. It is normally determined via x-ray, though it can also be determined via ultrasound. Unlike osteoporosis, where the bones are mineral-deprived to the point of easy breakage, patients with osteopenia can slow the condition and even strengthen the bones. If left unchecked, the bones can deteriorate to the point of an osteoporosis diagnoses; however, this does not occur with every patient.
Curb Your Vices
While we immediately think of calcium, the actual number of substances that can impact bone health is startling. Just as there are vitamins and minerals that can improve bone strength, there are also things we ingest which can actively harm and weaken the skeleton. Fortunately, these are normally non-essential consumables that are easily given up as part of an overall healthy lifestyle and therefore improve not just bone health, but cardiovascular and other areas of the body.
Both smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol can further damage bones, thus posing a great risk to patients diagnosed with osteopenia. Smoking, along with a host of other problems, is linked to decreased bone density. Likewise, alcohol can inhibit the body’s calcium absorption, a property also linked to caffeine. Therefore, try to reduce your intake of these substances, if not removing them entirely.
Eating for Osteopenia
What you eat plays a massive role in your body’s health. It impacts how you grow, your cognitive development, heart health, and, naturally, bone health as well. This is especially true for patients with osteopenia whose bones require a broad range of vitamins and minerals to restore density to weakened areas.
An osteopenia-focused diet should be rich in both calcium and Vitamin D. Eat plenty of green vegetables and a fair amount of dairy to add calcium to your diet. Foods that contain Vitamin D include egg yolks, fish, and dairy items fortified with this essential nutrient.
The Natural Approach
Your grocery store’s vitamin and supplement aisle is packed with natural remedies proven to strengthen bones and hold off the degenerative aspects of osteopenia. While these vitamins and minerals can be found in food, even a varied diet is bound to be deficient in some areas. Adding supplements ensures your body gets the sufficient serving, freeing you to worry less about optimizing your dietary choices.
The two most important supplements for patients with osteopenia are fish oil and Vitamin D. Other useful supplements include magnesium, Vitamin K, and a balanced multivitamin. For maximum effect and benefits to your bone density, take these supplements daily. Aim for 1,200 mg of calcium and 800 mg of calcium each day.
While patients with osteoporosis face severe physical limitations, it’s actually very important for people diagnosed with osteopenia to get exercise. Not only does exercise help you maintain a healthy weight and improve your overall cardiovascular health, as it also benefits bone health. The two primary benefits of exercise for osteopenia are improved mineral density and more effective storage and use of calcium.
Aerobic exercise is an important part of any health plan, but for osteopenia it isn’t necessarily enough. Rather, you should make a regular resistance program part of your lifestyle. Exercise that use dumbbells or just your own body weight are simple to learn and can be performed a few times a week. AlgaeCal recommends getting out and moving at least three times a week for 30 minutes. A combination of aerobic and resistance exercises will offer the most benefit.
Long Term Results
Lifestyle can have a huge impact on prognosis and quality of life for osteopenia patients. The key in the long term is consistency. Maintain an exercise program, eat a varied diet complimented by supplements, and avoid harmful vices like cigarettes and alcohol. Following these steps will, over time, improve bone density and prevent your condition from evolving into osteoporosis.