Osteoporosis is a disease that will affect 1 in 5 women over age 50, often with no symptoms until a fracture occurs, giving it the name “The Silent Thief”. Osteopenia is a lesser degree of bone loss than osteoporosis. The greatest loss of bone mass, which can be as much as 20%, generally occurs within 5 to 7 years after menopause, but can begin at age 35. In severe cases, 1 to 2 inches of height can be lost sometimes causing the spine to develop a hunchback curve.
One half of all women over 50 will experience a fracture of the hip, wrist or spine. In fact, bone loss is blamed for 1.5 million fractures a year. Obviously, with those numbers and our aging population, this disease requires us to be very proactive in both prevention and treatment. The recommended form of diagnosis is a simple and painless test for bone mineral density called a DEXA scan often recommended around age 50 or earlier.
The risk factors include: family history of osteoporosis, a small or thin body frame, being Caucasian or Asian, certain medications, such as corticosteroids (used for asthma or arthritis), consuming more than 3 alcoholic beverages a day, smoking cigarettes. Poor nutrition can contribute to risk, as can certain thyroid diseases.
Treatment often consists of prescription medications. In addition, increasing consumption of calcium to 1200 mg with 800-1000 iu of vitamin D is both good prevention and treatment aid.
The good news is that exercise is especially helpful for osteopenia and osteoporosis. It helps to stimulate bone formation. The benefits are as plentiful as are the choices of types of exercise that can help. Weight bearing exercise, such as walking or weight lifting can both build muscle and increase bone density. Added muscle mass also aids in balance, helping to avoid falls. Weight lifting can be done with free weights, machines, elastic bands or tubes. Tai Chi can help with balance and stability. Pilates is highly beneficial because it teaches posture, spinal alignment and stretching, working on abdominal strength and overall flexibility. Some cautions are necessary when designing an exercise program that is safe for the spine. Since osteoporosis of the spine can cause small parts to collapse, forward bending motions are not desirable. A qualified instructor will be aware of these necessary precautions.
If you’ve been diagnosed with either osteopenia or osteoporosis or want to avoid these diseases, contact us for a consultation and a safe exercise program design. We are experienced in working with clients dealing with these conditions and are available to answer any questions you may have.
Lynn DeLancey – Certified Personal Trainer, Certified Pilates Instructor, Wellness Coach
Customized Fitness, a Private Exercise Studio
324 Godwin Ave.
Midland Park, NJ 07432