Osteoporosis — A Four Letter Word


Twice this week I had people return from a visit with their doctor to learn that their bone density tests had shown bone loss. Frankly, they were ticked off. These women exercise, take a calcium/magnesium with D supplement as prescribed by their doctor and eat well. So why the loss? I will tell you the theory we surmised at the end of this posting.

Lying amid rolling dunes, in the shadow of a World War II observation tower in Cape Henlopen State Park, is Fort Miles Historical Area.

Osteoporosis  — a four letter word, sort of. It is a word we never hope to hear come out of our doctor’s mouth. If you get the diagnosis there is no going back. The key is to act before we hear them say that word. If you don’t think you are at risk for this condition, think again. You are AT RISK of Osteoporosis if you have or do any of the following:

  1. Your Way of Living (also known as Lifestyle) smoking, heavy drinking, poor diet.
  2. Women — Women have lighter and thinner bones, and decreased estrogen with menopause.
  3. Age — Men and Women both begin to lose density at age 50, and we all age.
  4. Family History — see how prevalent it is in your family, both men and women.
  5. Ethnicity — Caucasian and Asian women are only slightly higher than African-American and Hispanic women. I could find no evidence that men are affected by an ethnic standard which I find strange. Let me know if you know of any data I may have missed.
  6. Body Size — 127 seems to be the magic number and your doctor won’t want you below that in body weight.
  7. Medications — specifically steroids you have to use for conditions like asthma, seizures and some cancers.

Out of the seven Risk Factors above you only have control over two.  You can’t change your family, sex, age, ethnicity nor the medications you’ve had to take. You can, however control your lifestyle and your body. This week and the next two weeks I would like to hear feedback from you in the form of comments and in some cases answering the Polls. You realize I am always interested in input from my readers! I’ve broken this down into three segments. 

Exercise          ♥          Diet             ♥        Reducing Stress

Today we tackle Exercise and our discussion comes back to the two women I mentioned earlier. These women aren’t old, but their bodies have experienced 50 or more years of service. Even with regular exercise they still saw changes they thought they would avoid. I believe we must address changes to the weight-bearing activities and the bio-mechanics of their bodies. How their bodies move during exercise can be important too.

Weight bearing, resistance training, weight lifting all mean the same thing — stronger bones.  We hope! Their routines included squats, lunges, steps, and walking. Since they only used body weight they will need to hold 10 or 15 pound kettle bells or dumb bells for added resistance. While they might believe the body weight was enough, their bones are telling us it wasn’t. There’s a fine balance here. You want to be careful you don’t stress the joints and cause injury with excessive weights, but if you ere too far on the side of caution you won’t necessarily see improvement. You will still risk losing bone density.

The second aspect to check is a person’s gait — how they walk and move. Even the issue of a shortened or tight calf muscle (possibly from wearing even 1″ high heels or not stretching)  can affect the movement of the body. As you take a step there is a  vibration as your heel strikes the ground. When the calf is tight the poor dorsiflexion reduces the vibration from a heel strike when walking***. Both women admitted they walked less this year due to the 100+ temperatures all summer.  They surmised that less walking, and tight muscles contributed to their present medical diagnosis. Remember the other Risk Factors above which contribute to the total picture. Be sure your calf muscles are stretched after you walk. So the decision is that these ladies will be using more weights, walking more often and stretching. (Surprise!)

Make the decision to get out there and walk more, take aerobics classes and don’t be afraid of the weights — but start slowly and allow your body to adjust. Please tell me how you are doing to take care of your bone density.

Be Well!

***There is a huge difference of opinion in the running world regarding the proper “strike” of the foot when running. Three camps: Heel, Mid-foot and Toe.  My opinion is only about walking and Spark People agrees.

Sites to Check Out:  Woman to Woman

University of Michigan Bone Health

2 thoughts on “Osteoporosis — A Four Letter Word

  1. Hi Karen, great blog post! I used to be among the women disappointed with the traditional approaches for improving bone density. You say there are 3 risk factors we have control over, but I would add a 4th – comprehensive nutrition (not just diet, but supplementation with the essential nutrients for bone health that women can not consume enough of from diet alone). It takes much more than just calcium and vitamin D for bone health, In fact, you need magnesium, vitamin K, boron and silicon – among other nutrients – to build strong bones. https://www.bonehealthnow.com/

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