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Low Bone Density ~ How did this happen?

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I am 42 years old and have a bone density of 1.3 I was told I am at a high risk of getting Osteoporosis. What bone density is considered the disease? I am not in menopause .I was in a car accident a year ago and still have extreme pain in my lower back. I worked out a lot prior to the accident. I am not over weight and eat a low fat diet with lots of fresh vegetables. I take calcium and magnesium twice a day. How can this happen?


First of all, let’s assume you are talking about a t-score of -1.3 (as opposed to a z-score or a positive number of 1.3).  At this number, what you have is mild osteopenia or low bone mass.

What do those numbers mean?



-1 or above

Normal bone mass

Between -1 and -2.5

Osteopenia or low bone mass

-2.5 or less


Several factors play into your bone mass density including biochemical, genetic, environmental exposures, nutrition status, physical activity, unhealthy habits, age and your state of health. Let’s look at a few.

Genetics- this is not only about race or gender, but there are numerous genes that control your skeletal growth, structure and density, your peak bone mass (at age 20 – think of it as one of your retirement accounts), body size and more.

Nutritional Factors. While many nutrients appear to affect peak bone mass, calcium seems to be the one we are deficient in.

Exercise. There’s that “E word” again. The more stress or impact on your bone, the higher your bone density. There is a huge amount of evidence that shows weight bearing exercise is associate with peak bone mass.

Menstrual History. Women who exercise excessively, who are anorexic or have a history of hyperprolactimenia tend to have experienced amenorrhea (no periods), especially when they were younger. These women tend to have a lower bone density, which continues as they age. There is also now some evidence that shows the use of “Depo” (birth control shots) may be linked to a slight decrease in bone density as well.

Age – both men and women loose bone mass as we age, though the loss can be modified by many of the factors listed here. In addition we have more urinary loss of calcium.

Menopause – with decreased estrogen we have an increased rate of bone remodeling (bone constantly breaks down and reforms...it’s a living, breathing and very organic tissue). We don’t rebuild as quickly.

Calcium intake is essential to your health and well being because of it’s various metabolic processes.  In this case, it is responsible for the rigidity (stiffness and strength) of teeth and bone. Several factors affect our balance of calcium. For example phytates in wheat, fiber, oxalates (think spinach), iron and high doses of caffeine can reduce the absorption of calcium.  In addition when you consume sodium (salt) in your diet, you increase the rate of excretion of calcium from the body (through urine).

Habits - Alcoholism and Smoking actually produce negative effects on your bones.

Chronic disease and medications – many of these can negatively impact your bone density as well.

So what can you do?  You want to minimize or eliminate any of these factors. You will find some suggestions on what you can do to improve your bone density when you read “How Can I Prevent Osteoporosis” .

Additional Resources:

National Osteoprosis Foundation (USA)
Osteoprosis Canada
National Osteoporosis Society Online (UK)
Osteoporosis Australia


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