CORE Spotlight: Celebrating National Osteoporosis Month with Jackie Giordano

This month the CORE team at Raleigh Orthopaedic will be discussing the impacts of osteoporosis in honor of national osteoporosis month. Osteoporosis is a bone disease that weakens and individual’s bones leaving them more susceptible to breaks and other health complications. Diagnosed by a bone density scan, a physician will routinely administer the scan to individuals 65 years and older or to those who have broken a bone at age 50 or older.

Osteoporosis can occur due to natural aging since bone is created and lost cyclically throughout one’s lifetime. Family history, medications, and lifestyle choices also impact one’s chances of developing osteoporosis. Currently, 10 million Americans have osteoporosis while an additional 44 million have low bone density and are at greater risk for having osteoporosis in the future. With this, 1 in 2 women and 1 in 4 men will break a bone in their lifetime due to osteoporosis.

One good thing about osteoporosis is that it is a reversible condition as a combination of exercise, diet, a healthy lifestyle, and medication can help build bone density back up to a safe level. Guidance from a knowledgeable doctor and fitness specialist can help individuals strengthen their body to reduce the risk of broken bones. Resistance training as well as balance and posture focused exercises are cornerstones of an effective exercise program for doing this. Other resources such as the National Osteoporosis Foundation, www.nof.org, or meeting with an orthopedic specialist can be a great first step for learning more about osteoporosis and what you can do.

While each individual’s experience with osteoporosis is different, a real life example can paint a picture of how osteoporosis impacts one’s lifestyle. Enter Jackie Giordano- a rockstar client of the CORE program since June, 2016. Jackie first started with the CORE program after she was diagnosed with osteoporosis. The following exert is from a recent interview between one of our fitness specialists and Jackie:

  1. As you know, May is National Osteoporosis month. Helping individuals with osteoporosis improve their health and fitness level by exercising in a safe environment is a major focus of the CORE program at Raleigh Orthopedic Clinic. Please tell us about your journey with osteoporosis.

I’ve been physically active for much of my life, and at times have been a real gym rat.  I was thus surprised and dismayed when, in June 2015, a DEXA scan showed that I had osteoporosis.  My primary care physician focused on treating the condition with pills: she wanted me to take Fosamax and calcium supplements.  I decided not to take either the medication or, since I already got plenty of calcium from my diet, the supplements.  I much preferred to treat the condition with diet and exercise.  My doctor had no advice to give me about exercise, so I asked her to refer me to a physical therapist.  The PT gave me a set of exercises to do at home, but they simply weren’t challenging enough.

Eventually, I got so frustrated that I contacted Raleigh Orthopedic.  I hoped that I could learn enough from an office visit with an orthopedist to be able to put together an exercise program on my own.  I met with Dr. Chad Greer, who was wonderful: very informative and generous with his time.  Best of all, he was reassuring; he advised me to be realistic about my limitations, but he also urged me not to give up the activities I really enjoy, saying “you have to live.”  Those were the first words of encouragement I had heard, and I was—and remain—immensely grateful for them.

At the end of our conversation, Dr. Greer referred me to CORE.  That referral was the best thing that could have happened to me.  I began working with an athletic trainer at CORE in June 2016, and a follow-up DEXA scan in June 2017 showed that my bone density had improved so much that I was no longer osteoporotic.  A comparison of my DEXA results is below.  (Note: my right hip was not imaged for the 2015 DEXA scan.)

  2015 2017
L1 – L4 (total) -2.6 -2.1
Neck left -2.6 -1.9
Neck right -2.3
Total left -2.5 -2.3
Total right -2.4

*a score of -2.5 or lower indicates osteoporosis*

My bone density still needs improvement, of course, but I expect that as I continue to work out, it will get better and better.  I’m now working out with Zach twice a week, and going to Core n’ More every Monday.  I am hooked!

  1. In what ways (if any) did you feel limited after you were diagnosed with osteoporosis?

My primary care physician and the physical therapist to whom she referred me ruled out almost all forms of exertion other than sedate walking and very mild PT exercises.  They told me that I shouldn’t run, jump, dance vigorously, engage in high-impact activities, lift heavy weights, bend, twist, or even do a simple plank exercise.  Since I was used to taking hard-core fitness classes—boot camp, cardio kick-boxing, and so forth—I felt boxed in by their very long list of “don’ts.”

  1. How did osteoporosis impact your lifestyle? How did it impact your relationship with exercise?

At first, the doctor and the physical therapist had me spooked.  I became extremely cautious about how I moved and what kinds of exercise I did.  After a while, though, I started to get very impatient and cranky.  The turning point came one day when I was crossing the street, and turned to see a car barreling toward me.  For one second I actually paused, thinking “I’m not supposed to run,” before a saner voice in my head pointed out that getting hit by a car was not the better option.  I ran for it—and the next day I decided that enough was enough, and I called Raleigh Orthopedic.

  1. What does it mean to you to have successfully increased your bone density and to have reversed osteoporosis?

I feel delighted, relieved, and vindicated.  I’m glad that making healthy choices had such a positive effect.  I have to give a big shout out to Zach, who is a marvelous trainer, and to Linda, whose Core ‘n’ More classes are terrific.  I love it that they both keep me safe and push me to do my best.  In fact, I’m grateful to be able to work with all the knowledgeable and supportive CORE staff.

  1. What would you tell a friend who was just diagnosed with osteoporosis?

Though my decision not to take medication worked out well, I wouldn’t presume to give anyone else medical advice.  I would tell friends who are considering taking medication that they might want to do a good deal of research before making up their minds.  (Some things to look for: side-effects as well as benefits of medication; clinical-trial reports and after-market research; and the difference between relative and absolute reductions in fracture risk.)

I would encourage my friends to improve their diets and to get more exercise, which I think is kind of obvious: lots of benefits and absolutely no negative side effects.  I would definitely recommend working with a certified trainer or physical therapist, if possible, to make sure that the exercises they do are both safe and effective.  I’d recommend yoga as well, since yoga has been shown to be good for bone health.  And I would remind them that everyone can get out and walk: all it takes is a pleasant location and a good pair of shoes.

  1. You said you felt boxed in by a “very long list of don’ts.” That sounds like the perfect recipe for feeling discouraged at the gym and inhibited when it comes to enjoying all of the wonderful movements life has to offer. Now that you are consistently strength training, and your body is stronger, what kind of exercises do you enjoy while working out? What activities do you enjoy outside of the gym?

I truly enjoy strength training (though Zach will tell you that I do a fair amount of whining during our sessions).  It makes me happy to see how much stronger I’ve grown in the two years since I first came to CORE.  I’m determined that by the end of the year, I’ll be able to do a pull-up.  (I guess we’ll see about that.)  I also really like yoga, which is good not only for my physical condition but also helps to calm my mind.  And I love cardio dance classes, such as Zumba.

Outside of the gym, I’m an avid hiker, and spend a lot of time walking in Wake County parks.  I try to walk at least five miles a day, and have set a goal for myself: by the end of the year, I want to be able to walk 26.2 miles: the equivalent of a marathon.  Kayaking was on the list of “don’ts, but now that my bones are starting to improve, I want to get back on the water and start kayaking again.  And I love to dance.

  1. Anything else you would like to say?

Stay positive!  You need to take osteoporosis seriously, but you don’t need to fear it.  In a way, my diagnosis was a blessing in disguise, since it led me to CORE.  I’m in better shape now, at age 64, than I’ve been in years.  Who would have predicted that?

 

Visit www.raleighortho.com/core or call 919-863-6834 to learn more about our CORE (Center for Orthopaedic Rehabilitation and Exercise) Program.