When you lose bone minerals quicker than you can replace them, it’s called bone demineralization. This can lead to other health conditions, including osteoporosis.

About 60% of your bone mass is made up of minerals like calcium and phosphorous.

These minerals give your bones their strength and hardness. Your body also uses them for other tasks, like supporting your nerves and repairing tissues.

Your body constantly removes and replaces minerals from your bones as it needs them. Bone demineralization is when you lose bone minerals quicker than you can replace them.

Bone demineralization can lead to brittle bones that put you at risk of fracture. Doctors will come to a diagnosis of osteoporosis if your bone density drops significantly below what’s considered typical.

According to experts, osteoporosis affects more than 1 in 3 females and 1 in 5 males over age 50.

Keep reading to learn more about bone demineralization and osteoporosis.

A note on sex and gender

In this article, we use the terms “male” and “female” to refer to someone’s biological sex as determined by their chromosomes.

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Bone demineralization is the loss of minerals from your bone. Your body stores about 99% of your calcium and 85% of your phosphorous in your bones and then constantly removes these minerals to be used elsewhere in the body.

For example, your body uses calcium for:

  • releasing hormones
  • moving blood through blood vessels
  • moving muscles
  • carrying messages to your brain through nerves

Usually, your body replaces these minerals at the same rate it removes them. However, factors like hormone levels and diet can lead to demineralization over time.

Your doctor may tell you that you have osteopenia if your bone density drops below what’s considered typical for a young and healthy adult. If it drops very low, they may tell you that you have osteoporosis.

The mineral balance of your bone is largely determined by your hormone levels and your diet.

Factors that can lead to bone demineralization include:

Doctors can measure your bone density with a bone density test. The most common way your bone density is measured is with dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA or DEXA). This painless test uses X-rays to see the structure of your bone.

Doctors assign you a T-score based on the results of your scan. A T-score of 0 means your bone density is equal to that of a young, healthy adult. A negative number means your bone density is lower, whereas a positive number means it’s higher.

Your T-score is measured in standard deviations (SD), which is a statistical measurement used to estimate how far away from average your score falls.

Here’s how doctors interpret your score:

Typicalfrom +1 to -1 SD
Low (osteopenia)-1 to – 2.5 SD
Osteoporosisbelow -2.5 SD
Severe osteoporosisbelow -2.5 SD with one or more bone fractures

Osteoporosis is very common. People with a higher risk of developing osteoporosis include people who:

Doctors can measure your bone density with a DEXA scan. The results of the scan can allow your doctor to see if you have a lower-than-typical bone density. DEXA of your hip and spine is generally considered the most reliable way to diagnose osteoporosis.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends screening for females over age 65 and females who have risk factors for osteoporosis.

You can potentially prevent bone mineral density loss by taking preventive steps, such as:

  • eating foods high in vitamin D and calcium and taking a supplement if your levels are low (but be sure to speak with your doctor before taking any supplements)
  • performing regular weight-bearing exercises like:
    • strength training
    • hiking
    • walking
    • jogging
    • dancing
  • avoiding smoking, or quitting if you currently smoke (this can be difficult, but a doctor can help create a cessation plan that may work for you)
  • limiting your alcohol consumption
  • minimizing the use and decreasing the dosage of any steroids you are taking (speak with your doctor about finding the best dosage for you)

If you currently have osteoporosis, your doctor may recommend medications to increase your bone mineral density. Medications like bisphosphonates can slow your rate of bone mineral loss, lead to an increase in bone density, and decrease the risk of fracture.

Learn more about how to prevent osteoporosis.

Bone demineralization is the loss of minerals from your bones that makes them more prone to fracture. If your bone mineral density drops well below what is considered typical, your doctor may diagnose you with osteoporosis.

You can lower your chances of developing osteoporosis by taking preventive steps, such as exercising regularly and eating a balanced diet high in calcium and vitamin D. Your doctor may recommend medications to increase your bone density if you currently have osteoporosis.