Boost bone health, Gangnam Style
The Kansas City Star
Everyone is doing it. President Barack Obama reportedly got into the action at a White House inaugural after-party.
And who could miss the pistachio commercial during the Superbowl? Korean rap sensation Psy’s “Gangnam Style” dance is everywhere — and from my perspective as a scientist, this is very good news.
Dancing isn’t just fun, it’s great for weight loss, and what’s lesser known, it helps build strong bones which will hopefully keep you dancing for decades.
Stronger bones can help prevent osteoporosis, a disease that affects men and women alike. Activities which involve jumping or fast starts and stops build bone mass, which is especially important for children and young adults when bones are still forming. Examples include dancing, jogging, basketball, soccer and tennis.
Unlike “Gangnam Style,” osteoporosis is serious. It’s a chronic disease affecting more than 200 million people worldwide.
Osteoporosis is more prevalent than cancer, heart disease or diabetes, yet often goes undiagnosed until there’s a serious problem. Many people are unaware that they are at risk. Osteoporosis is a silent epidemic because bone loss occurs without symptoms and the disease often is first diagnosed after a fracture occurs. For many, a fracture is the first sign of the disease and can lead to loss of independence. At some point we all worry about that.
What’s scarier is that one in five seniors who suffer a hip fracture will die from complications within a year.
To be clear, this is not an “old person’s problem.” While older women are most affected, younger women are at risk — and men too in increasing numbers, especially those taking certain prostate cancer medications.
Across all generations, the current American lifestyle — sitting still at a computer and eating less than nutritious meals — is not conducive to strong, healthy bones. Just as we get blood pressure screenings and cholesterol tests, we should be talking to our doctors about osteoporosis and whether we need a bone density scan to screen for osteoporosis.
Only some people with certain risk factors need this test, but for those who do, it can stave off serious consequences.
My job as a scientist is to make discoveries that can be turned into new treatments that help patients.
And we’ve made significant progress in preventing, diagnosing and treating this disease and the suffering it causes.
Twenty years ago, we only had two drugs available to treat osteoporosis, but today we have a much wider range of options.
Science now shows that a diet rich in calcium and Vitamin D and weight-bearing exercise throughout life help build and maintain healthy bones. We have tests to catch osteoporosis early and we also know that by identifying, tracking and treating patients after a first fracture, we can often prevent repeat fractures.
But to adequately address this public health risk, we need to increase public awareness by educating health professionals and patients about osteoporosis, the importance of building strong bones and how to maintain good bone health.
We need to protect patient access to bone density (DXA) testing and increase research funding for bone disease. Sustained investment in research and prevention efforts can reduce the personal and economic cost of osteoporosis.
Recently, the young investigators in my lab had a party and encouraged me to dance Gangnam style with them. Much to their surprise, I did. It was not only fun, but for me and all of us, good for our bones and great for our overall health. Gangnam style dancing is an easy pill to swallow!
Lynda F. Bonewald is Interim Vice Chancellor for Translational and Clinical Research at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, and president of the American Society for Bone and Mineral Research.