Show Osteoporosis Who’s Stronger

26 04 2012

Weakening Your Bones
As we age, our muscles and bones begin to wear. Without consistent physical exercise and proper nutrition, the marrow in your bones begin to deteriorate and/or stop forming. This condition is called osteoporosis (meaning “porous bone”). It is a condition where the marrow in your bones become brittle, leaving larger spaces within the bone. Osteoporosis affects half the population of women in the world, while affecting only one in every four (1:4) men. The National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF) states that today in the US, ten million individuals are effected by the disease while another 34 million are estimated to have low bone density which increases their risk for osteoporosis and broken bones. The two sites that are most commonly identified as osteoporosis is the lumbar (lower) spine and femoral neck (hip). When these two sites become too brittle, the risk of fractures increase and life expectancy decreases. Another condition may occur in the spine due to osteoporosis. As the vertebral discs weakens, a forward curvature of the upper spine will occur known as the “dowager’s hump”. Someone with a dowager’s hump can have balance problems, which will increase the risk fractures from falling, while at the same time subjecting their internal organs to a lot of overbearing pressure.

There are several risk factors that increases the chances for osteoporosis. These include:

  • Age – anyone can get osteoporosis but it is more common to see it in older adults
  • Gender – females are more susceptible than men
  • Family History – genetics play a role in the predisposition of osteoporosis
  • Menopause – Females going through or have gone through menopause have a higher risk
  • Low Body Weight or Small/Thin Framed – People with small bones increases their risk of osteoporosis
  • Poor Diet – lack of calcium and vitamin D slows down and can stop bone growth
  • Alcohol – consuming excessive amounts will reduce the formation of bone
  • Sedentary Lifestyle – inactivity can lead to lack of strength, poor balance, and reduced bone growth resulting in falls and fractures

Get Tested
The only way to diagnosis osteoporosis is to get a bone density test. Other methods like ultrasounds, blood tests, and normal x-rays are used as quick estimations, not accurate data and can cause a false sense of security in individuals who actually have osteoporosis. The most common bone density test or scanning method is a DEXA or DXA (Dual Energy X-Ray) scan. The two most common sites tested are the left hip (Femoral Neck) and the lower spine (lumbar spine). Other sites that can be used are the right hip, ankles,  and wrists if surgery or injury was prevalent in one of the other sites (e.g. hip replacement, spinal fusion). The results of a DEXA scan will show three possible outcomes: Normal (T score ≥ -1), Osteopenia (T score between -1 and -2.5), and Osteoporosis (T score ≤ -2.5). Your bone density scores are critical when talking with your physician about treatment plans.

If you are diagnosed with either osteopenia or osteoporosis, your physician will probably discuss medication options with you to help treat your condition. There are a number of medications currently available for patients with osteoporosis and osteopenia. However, each medication may not be suitable for you, so you might not want to take what you’re next door neighbor is taking. Read up on the medications so that you are as informed as your doctor about the medication that you are prescribed. Sometimes, the physician is not as knowledgable about your treatments, so be a team and know your information. The NOF has a great listing of the current medications and information on each one (click here for medication listing).

Strengthen Your Bones
Another way to prevent fractures and reduce the risk of further deterioration of bone is to follow a healthy diet of fruits, vegetables, and dairy rich in calcium and vitamin D. Adding a little bit of sun exposure (vitamin D) can help improve absorption of calcium. For those of you who are concerned about skin cancer, all you need is 15 minutes of sun exposure to absorb enough vitamin D to get health benefits. Note that applying sun block while outside will prevent you from getting the vitamin D that you need. While you’re outside, do some weight bearing exercise (e.g. walking, jogging, jumping) to strengthen your muscles and also increase the density of your hip. To build up the density in your spine, resistance training should be done. A creditable, certified personal trainer can help you identify the correct resistance training for you. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends 3-5 days a week of moderate intensity weight bearing cardiovascular exercise for 30 minutes. Supplement that with 2-3 days a week of resistance training. Those with osteoporosis should also implement a daily balance and stretch program to prevent possible falls.

American College of Sports Medicine, Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription , 8th ed.

National Osteoporosis Foundation

WebMD, Anatomy Guide: Curvature Disorders

Triumph Over the Female Athlete Triad

25 04 2012

In the last 30 years, females have been engaging in more sports and athletic events than ever before. This is significantly due to the passing of Title IX in 1972, which entitled women to equal participation in sports. Women of all ages have become fitter and more active throughout the last couple of decades, and the advocacy for fitness is great for improving overall health in women. However, within the past 25 years, the female population has been putting its health at risk with a condition known as the “female athlete triad.”  This condition is often noted in the younger age groups, but it affects all ages.


Body image is an underlining concern for many girls in this country. Throughout their young lives, media, peers, and even family members have caused girls to pay considerable attention to their body image. Now that athletics have been added into the equation, we see more stress on females to improve their physiology. Girls participating in ballet, gymnastics, crew, and martial arts are victims of female athlete triad. Coaches, teammates, and parents tell these girls to lose a couple more pounds so that they can perform better.  In actuality, weight loss beyond a healthy weight, does not improve athletic performance.

The consequences of female athlete triad include eating disorder, amenorrhea (menstrual disturbances), and osteoporosis (bone loss). When a person engages in physical activity, the body needs enough nutrients to sustain the energy demands. Female athletes who are self-conscience of their weight will tend to eat less. The energy imbalance begins to affect not only their physical appearance, but also performance and their health. A lack of sustainable fuel in a female body will cause hormonal changes. One known result of the body’s change is amenorrhea (no period or irregular periods). A lack of valuable nutrients, even though the female is participating in physical activity, can potentially cause the bones to become brittle. This process over time will result in osteoporosis. The common signs and symptoms of the condition include: weight loss, no periods or irregular periods, fatigue and decreased ability to concentrate, stress fractures, and muscle injuries. Those who engage in an eating disorder might not even feel like they are doing it. It is important to identify the signs and then to take a correct approach to improve a woman’s health.

If you know of someone who has female athlete triad or feel that you might be heading in that direction yourself, take some time to evaluate the situation and then the steps to improve the condition. Know that the disorder doesn’t just strike young girls. Adults and even non-elite athletes can fall into the triad. If you are physically active or engage in daily exercise, you may be a victim of this disorder. Talking to your physician or internist is the first step to providing the body with the right intervention. The Female Athlete Triad Coalition ( and provide additional information on the treatment and prevention of female athlete triad.

L DiPietro and N S Stachenfeld. (2006). The myth of the female athlete triad. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 40(6): 490-493

Female Athlete Triad from

Female Athlete Triad Coalition from