too young to think about bone health

Too young to consider your bone health? Could young women prevent osteoporosis?

I was curious about the age when women actually start to have bone loss. It’s often not detected until women are in their 60’s. But truly, they won’t even test a woman unless she’s in her 60’s. It seems it’s just not considered a “young woman’s” disease.

I asked my doctor for a bone scan just so I could have a baseline at age 42. He was hesitant, stating insurance wouldn’t pay for it because I didn’t have risk factors (age being the big one). But he wrote the script for it anyhow. And then I got flack from the scan technician asking me why I was there. I told her I wanted a baseline…..that I’d had many younger patients over the years that ended up falling and fracturing and only then they were permitted a scan which revealed they had osteopenia or osteoporosis.

What if they could have known before and have been taking preventative measures?

I took a poll recently on an Osteoporosis Forum on Facebook. The poll asked for the women’s age at the time they were diagnosed. Out of 400 women responding, here were the results:

  • Over age 60 = ~28%
  • Age 51-60 = ~48%
  • Age 41-50 = ~14%
  • Age 31-40 = ~7%
  • Age 30 and under = ~3%

So, 24% of the women were diagnosed under the age of 50.

And when I queried those women that had been diagnosed prior to age 40, asking, “what were your risk factors?” Here are the most common responses:

  • Eating disorder
  • Family stresses
  • Smoker
  • Cancer (and it’s subsequent treatments)
  • Digestive disorders (Celiac, Crohn’s, Ulcerative Colitis)
  • Graves disease
  • Prednisone use
  • Early hysterectomy
  • Congenital (had some bone disorder from birth)

And when I asked further whether these women were provided with any information about their risk for bone health issues, not one of them replied that they were informed.

And without information of their known risk factors, they were not able to be pro-active.

I’m not saying they would have ultimately been able to stop the progression towards osteopenia or osteoporosis. But given one or two strikes against them, perhaps they could have been taking other steps towards protecting their bone health.

However, according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF) website, “
[A Bone density scan] is routinely recommended for postmenopausal women and men age 50 and older and is how osteoporosis is diagnosed in older people. Bone density tests are usually only done for premenopausal women if they break several bones easily or break bones that are unusual for their age, such as bones in the hip or spine.” ¹

The NOF goes onto say that diagnosing osteoporosis in young women is complicated because:

  • Most premenopausal women with low bone density do not have an increased risk of breaking a bone in the near future. Therefore, having information about their bone density may only cause unnecessary worry and expense.
  • Some premenopausal women have low bone density because their genes (family history) caused them to have low peak bone mass. Nothing can or should be done to change this.
  • DXA tests can underestimate bone density in women who are small and thin. Therefore, a DXA test may indicate that a small person has low bone density, but the bone density is actually normal for the person’s body size
  • Osteoporosis medicines are not approved or advised for most premenopausal women. Bone density tests are used to help guide decisions about treatment. ¹

I don’t know that I completely agree with all of the above.

By the last point made, it seems they are basing decisions off the approval of osteoporosis medications being prescribed.

Thus the test would be the method to decide if medications would be the treatment for someone diagnosed with osteoporosis. And thus, if you’re not approved for those meds, then why test? Or why worry? Baloney! Meds should not be the final conclusion anyhow….many women on that Facebook page have been able to improve their bone density without the use of medications.

Just because we have it in our genes to have low bone density, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take measures to protect our bones. There are other ways other than medications. We don’t have to be our mother’s or our grandmother’s story. We know with epigenetic research now, that we can alter our genetic expression by lifestyle, environment, and nutrition.

And I’m not saying that testing is the ultimate method to and end result. There are inherent flaws in any kind of testing. Here is a a short video explanation I did about reading the results of DXA (dual energy X-ray absorptiometry) scans.

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And here is an article outlining some of the pitfalls of DXA scans.²

All I’m really trying to promote is:

  1. If a woman has risk factors (some of those are listed above), then she should be provided with the information that, yes, she does indeed have risks for developing osteoporosis in the future. And
  2. Provide that woman with all the information and tools that she could use to help prevent that outcome–nutrition, exercise, stress management, lifestyle.

I welcome your feedback and if you find this information helpful, please share with your colleagues, friends and family. I would love to hear if you were diagnosed with osteoporosis or osteopenia at a young age and if you were provided with information that could have helped you be more proactive.   Contact Tianna if you are searching for answers to your own bone health concerns. Or….

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  1. “What Women Need to Know.” National Osteoporosis Foundation,
  2. Garg, Mk, and Sandeep Kharb. “Dual Energy X-Ray Absorptiometry: Pitfalls in Measurement and Interpretation of Bone Mineral Density.” Indian Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism, vol. 17, no. 2, 2013, p. 203., doi:10.4103/2230-8210.109659.