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Staying mobile with osteoporosis

Health: The disease often leads to broken bones in patients over 50

Posted: June 13, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: June 13, 2011 1:55 a.m.

Heather deCordova, right, assistant director of rehab services in the Henry Mayo Physical Therapy office in Valencia works with a patient as they demonstrate a trampoline squat, which helps relieve or prevent pain from Osteoporosis on Thursday.

If you’re one of the millions of senior Americans with osteoporosis, you may already know that bone loss associated with the disease can lead to more serious conditions, such as bone fractures.

According to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, more than half of women and a quarter of men aged 50 or older will break a bone related to osteoporosis, which occurs more frequently in Caucasian and Asian populations, especially in those with small or thin frames.

Whether it’s before or after a fall, exercise can be an important contributing factor to keeping bones healthy and avoiding, or helping to heal, fractures.

The National Osteoporosis Foundation suggests weight-bearing exercises ranging from high-impact (dancing, hiking, jogging, running, jumping rope, stair-climbing and tennis) to low-impact (fast walking on a treadmill or outside, elliptical training and stair-step machines and low-impact aerobics). Balance exercises, such as tai chi, are considered no-impact.

To determine your level of ability, the NOF recommends checking with a health care provider.

Approximately 15 to 20 percent of patients at the Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital Therapy Services office at the hospital’s Valencia campus suffer from osteoporosis.

Patients are referred to the center by a primary care physician for physical therapy and to learn how to exercise properly.
“Generally, these are people who have already fractured a hip or spine, or people afraid of fracturing their bones.

Sometimes it’s just a matter of three or four sessions for a patient to learn what they need to do. Because the risk of immobility is so high, we want our patients to keep a high level of mobility, so they can continue to function independently,” said Heather deCordova, assistant director of rehabilitation services.

Exercises performed at the outpatient center, which has a large variety of weight machines and specialized equipment, can be duplicated at home in a functional way, such as replicating everyday movements.

“Weight-bearing exercise stimulates bone cells, which allows them to continue to develop. Working with a limb on the ground or against a surface, so a weight bears on that limb, allows the body to respond best for bone growth,” deCordova said. She recommends five hours of weight-bearing exercise per week for patients with osteoporosis, split into half-hour session.

Nutritionally, a calcium-rich diet is recommended by the NOF to build stronger, denser bones at all stages of life. The mineral is not produced within the body, so calcium must be ingested through foods such as:

- Dairy: low-fat milk, yogurt and cheese

- Green vegetables: broccoli, spinach, kale, okra, Chinese cabbage and mustard greens

- Fish: canned salmon and sardines (with bones) and canned shrimp

- Calcium-fortified products: soy or almond milks, cereals, snacks and breads.

Calcium-depleting drinks should be limited or avoided. These include:

- Alcohol
- Coffee
- Tea
- Soda

Supplements are another popular way for the body to receive calcium. Many supplements combine calcium with vitamin D and magnesium for increased absorption and bone strength, which is a plus for those with osteoporosis.

Not all supplements are created equal, however, according to Kim Wahl, manager of Valencia Wellness.

“The first thing you should do is look at the ingredient list. If it’s a three-ingredient supplement and there are 15 other ingredients, you have a problem. It’s not a very clean product,” she said. “Also, your supplement should be a vegetable or gelatin capsule, it should not contain silica sand, talcum powder or red dye, for example.”

Wahl prefers coral calcium over calcium carbonate or citrate.

“Coral calcium has 100 percent absorption. If you use an oyster shell calcium, there’s not much bioavailability there. You can’t eat oyster shells; it’s a hard calcium. You’d be lucky to absorb 2 percent. That means 98 percent would be going through your kidneys, which can lead to stones,” she said.

One’s pH levels are important for determining the proper amount of calcium, as are hormone levels, Wahl illustrated.

“The more acidic you are at night, the more your body pulls calcium to buffer itself. Then calcium can’t go into the bones.

If you’re acidic, you can add fish oil to help assimilate calcium,” she said. “Progresterone is the hormone that stimulates enzymes to create new bone, while estrogen eats bone away. Depending on the person and their hormone levels, they might need a 2-to-1 calcium to magnesium ratio or vice versa.”

Strips that determine pH levels are sold at Valencia Wellness, while a hormone test would have to be performed by a laboratory or physician’s office. A bone-density test to determine osteoporosis can also be performed by a physician.

For more information on Newhall Memorial Outpatient Therapy Services, visit or call (661) 253-8959. Valencia Wellness is located at 23550 Lyons Ave., Ste. B, Newhall. (661) 255-6217.


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