84-year-old increases bone density, one Zumba step at a time | TheUnion.com

84-year-old increases bone density, one Zumba step at a time

Gary Cooke
Special to The Union

John Hart/Jhart@theunion.com

A year ago, when she found out she would have to take pills to combat declining bone density, 84-year-old Edith Goldman started taking them – but she also went dancing.

To be precise, she signed up for a Zumba class and still takes it twice a week.

Last Thursday, the 30-year resident of Grass Valley learned that the pills and her dance exercise program are paying off. A follow- up test confirmed that her bone strength has improved.

"The message is that women at all ages can do something to improve bone health," according to Janet Comontofski, patient services representative for the Radiology Department at Dignity Health Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital. "But first they have to know that they have a problem."

That's why the department is staging a free bone health informational event this Saturday between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. in the Conference Rooms on Level 1 of Building 3 at the hospital, Comontofski announced.

The event is designed for women over 50, women who are menopausal, and women who have had hormone treatments, Comontofski said. It is also aimed at women who have been diagnosed with low bone density or who have other bone-related issues, she added. But anyone interested in bone health may attend. The program is free and does not require pre-registration.

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"We want to help the women of this community learn about osteoporosis — who's at risk, testing and treatments, and most importantly what we can do to help prevent this disease," Comontofski said.

Goldman said she was talked into the Zumba classes by several neighbors who were going.

"It gets strenuous," she said of the dance-based exercise program. "But everything has improved" since she started doing it.

"I'm not the only one," she declared. "Others in the class have improved bone strength, too."

Until she meets with her doctor to assess her recent test, Goldman won't know if she can stop taking bone-strengthening pills. "But I've stopped taking my blood pressure pills," she said.

She plans to continue the Zumba no matter what.

The disease of osteoporosis weakens bones and results in increasing loss of bone mass and strength, leading to fractures. Comontofski explained that most people's bones reach their maximum density and strength by age 30 and then begin a gradual decline until they become more fragile and subject to fracture. Women over 50 are at increasing risk, partly because they generally have thinner bones than men, and because they live longer lives.

"There are some alarming statistics," she noted. "For example, 50 percent of women aged 50 and older never regain full function after bone fractures. A fourth of them wind up in nursing homes, and a fourth die as a result of a fracture."

According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, there are two million bone breaks a year due to osteoporosis.

American Bone Health estimates that 44 million Americans are affected by osteoporosis and osteopenia, a stage of low bone density that precedes osteoporosis.

Comontofski said people at high risk include: those who are thin and small of stature; post menopausal women; people who do little or no exercise; smokers and drinkers; and those who have a family history of osteoporosis. Men can also suffer from the disease, but women are four times as likely to develop it. Caucasian and Asian women are more likely to get osteoporosis than African American women, research indicates. Rheumatoid arthritis increases the risk, as well as use of certain medications, including prednisone and other steroids.

She noted that preventive measures include weight-bearing and strengthening exercise, maintaining adequate calcium levels in your diet, and taking vitamin D. Things to avoid include lifestyle choices such as drinking, smoking and cola drinks.

Speakers at Saturday's event will include: Lori Benevento, RN, on bone health; Laura Seeman, RD, on nutrition; Maggie Edwards, PT, and Wendi August, PT assistant, on balance and fall risk issues; and Trisa Tebrizie, radiation technologist, on bone density scanning.

Balance testing will be offered, along with a demonstration of bone density scanning. Raffle drawings will be held to win a free bone density scan, along with prizes from several local exercise studios. Representatives of Fit Culture, Rhythms Fitness, and Vital Energy Arts Center, will be doing exercise demonstrations.

May is National Osteoporosis Awareness Month.

Bone density testing requires a referral from one's provider. To schedule a bone density test, call 530- 274-6262.

All physicians providing care for patients at SNMH are members of the medical staff and are independent practitioners, not employees of the hospital.

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