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As you age, the inside of your bones become porous from a loss of calcium. This is called losing bone mass. “Osteo” means bone and “penia” indicates a state of being low in quantity. Osteopenia refers to bone mass that is lower than normal peak mass but not low enough to be classified as osteoporosis. If your bone mass is low compared to normal peak mass, you are said to have osteopenia. Osteopenia is not a disease, but if you meet the criteria for osteopenia, you are at higher risk for developing osteoporosis.
Some people who have osteopenia may not have bone loss. They may just naturally have a lower bone mass. Osteopenia may also be the result of a one or more other conditions, disease processes, or treatments. Women are far more likely to develop osteoporosis than men. This is because women have a lower peak mass and because the loss of bone mass speeds up as hormonal changes take place at the time of menopause. Having osteopenia means there is a greater risk that, as time passes, you may develop bone mass that is very low compared to normal.