Them Bones, Them Bones, Them Strong Bones ~TREATING AND BEATING OSTEOPOROSIS

Story by Leann Pacheco for SMRMC

The knee bone’s connected to the thigh bone, the thigh bone’s connected to the hip bone, the hip bone’s connected to the back bone – unless one of these bones is fractured due to osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a disease that weakens bones, increasing the risk of sudden and unexpected fractures.

According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, osteoporosis is a major public health problem that has both a medical and economic impact in the U.S. Fractures caused by either osteoporosis or low bone mass can lead to chronic pain, disability and even death, as well as psychological symptoms, including depression. Each year broken bones due to low bone mass or osteoporosis cause over 432,000 hospital admissions, almost 2.5 million medical office visits and about 180,000 nursing home admissions.

Osteoporosis is most commonly linked with aging and the decrease in natural hormone levels. One in two women, who make up 80 percent of those with this disease, and one in eight men, will break a bone by age 50 due to osteoporosis. The most common osteoporotic fractures are in the wrists, hips and vertebrae.

Joe Cloud, M.D., Obstetrician and Gynecologist with Millard Henry Women’s Clinic in Russellville, identified osteoporosis as the “silent disease.” It progresses with out symptoms, and often goes undetected until weakened bones cause painful fractures. And while a family history of osteoporosis is a key risk factor, “we cannot just depend on family history to identify those at risk,” said Cloud. Other risk factors include:

1. Being of Caucasian race.
2. Being thin.
3. Having gone through early menopause. 4. Having undergone surgical menopause. Despite the damaging affects to the body, there are lifestyle changes that can help prevent the onset of osteoporosis and even stave off further deterioration after developing the disease.

Some of these are:

1. Get the daily-recommended amounts of calcium and vitamin D.

2. Engage in regular weight bearing and muscle-strengthening exercises.

3. Avoid smoking and excessive alcohol.

4. Talk to your healthcare provider about bone health.

5. Have a bone density test and take medication when appropriate.

Russell Allison, M.D., orthopedic surgeon and partner at Arkansas Orthopaedic Institute in Russellville, elaborated on these steps.

“All adult women over the age of 55 should be on calcium and vitamin D supplements,” he said, “and should have a bone density test, especially if they have a family history of osteoporosis or have suffered a previous fracture.” He added that people who have been on certain steroids or thyroid medications could be at an increased risk for thinning bones.

Allison emphasized the importance of follow-up care once osteoporosis is diagnosed. Even if patients are on prescribed bone-building medication, they should continue taking a calcium supplement and should have a bone density scan each year. “It’s not uncommon for a patient to remain on medication long after it’s actually needed,” he said, “simply because they have not been back to their physician for follow-up testing.”

While all forms of exercise are beneficial, weight-bearing and muscle-strengthening exercises such as weight lifting, jogging and even aggressive walking are the best forms of exercise for building bone mass.

Owen Kelly, M.D., orthopedic surgeon and also a partner at Arkansas Orthopaedic Institute, explained, “Bones adapt to stress – they become stronger and denser as demands are placed on them.” And despite so much pressure in society to be thin, “Carrying an extra 5 to 10 pounds of muscle mass is very beneficial to bone strength,” Kelly added.

Growing stronger is important at any age. The oldest baby boomers are now 60, according to the U.S. Administration on Aging, and are expected to live longer than any other generation before them. This factor, along with dramatic reductions in death rates among cancer, heart disease and stroke patients has already pushed the American life expectancy to 77 years. The concern is now not only how long – but how well – we will live.

“Most people know physical activity is beneficial for older adults’ well-being. Yet the majority of seniors in our country get relatively little exercise,” said Chris Draggs, director of Saint Mary’s Wellness Fitness Center (SMWFC).

Concerned for seniors in Russellville and the surrounding area, Draggs and the SMWFC staff began searching for a comprehensive senior program to incorporate into their own. About two years ago, the fitness center established the SilverSneakers program, which offers free memberships to seniors with certain secondary insurance plans.

Pat Hagemeier, a SilverSneakers member, commented on the increased level of strength and balance she enjoys because of regular exercise. “I know if I were to fall,” she said, “I wouldn’t worry about not recovering quickly.”

In recognition of National Osteoporosis Awareness and Prevention month, Saint Mary’s Regional Medical Center and Saint Mary’s Wellness Fitness Center will host their Strong Bones – Strong Bodies event on Saturday, May 31, at the fitness center. This community-wellness event is sponsored by the hospital, fitness center, Millard-Henry Clinic, Arkansas Orthopaedic Institute and Russellville Family Clinic.

The event will feature health screenings, physician speakers, clinical speakers, cooking demonstrations, exercise demonstrations, nutritional information, door prizes and more. There is no cost to attend the event, though in addition to the free health screenings available, a fasting cholesterol screen is also offered for $25.

“Saint Mary’s is proud to partner with area clinics and physicians. Our common goal is better health for our community,” stated Mike McCoy, Chief Executive Officer of Saint Mary’s.

“This is an excellent opportunity to learn more about bone health and the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis.”

Dr. Allison, Dr. Kelly and partner Robert Garrison, M.D., orthopedic surgeon at Arkansas Orthopaedic Institute, will present a panel discussion on bone health and osteoporosis. Free osteoporosis assessments will be offered at the clinic’s booth as well.

Millard Henry Clinic is one participant providing free bone density screenings. Representatives of the clinic will be on hand to answer questions and to provide information on the extensive range of medical services available at Millard Henry.

Ramona Hodges, a registered dietitian with Saint Mary’s, will present on nutrition and ways to incorporate bone-healthy nutrients into one’s diet. A licensed pharmacist will speak on bone-building prescription drugs and the benefits and side effects of each. A cooking demonstration will close out the day featuring preparation and sampling of bone- healthy foods rich in calcium and vitamin D.

Strong Bones – Strong Bodies is held at Saint Mary’s Wellness Fitness Center at 3808 West Main, Russellville. For more information, call Saint Mary’s Community Relations at (479) 964-9355.

 

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