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Stronger by the day

Woman turns to exercise after early
osteoporosis diagnosis
Cazanne Fitterer has used bone-strengthening to fit osteoporosis
Sanford Health's Melanie Carvell (left) helps Cazanne Fitterer during a recent workout. Fitterer has used bone-strengthening activities like weight-lifting to overcome osteoporosis.

  Cazanne Fitterer was only 37 when she was diagnosed with osteoporosis, a disease that results in broken bones and most commonly affects postmenopausal women.

The Bismarck mother of three began a nutrition and fitness regimen to strengthen her bones and actually reversed her diagnosis.

“In May, I had my annual Dexa scan (bone density test) and it showed my bones are normal now,” Fitterer said. “Initially, my doctor was going to put me on medication. But I didn’t want to be on meds the rest of my life at my age. I am so glad I made the lifestyle commitment that I did.”

Fitterer credits Sanford Women’s Health Center for helping her turn around her diagnosis. A runner and longtime WHC member, Fitterer turned to WHC Director Melanie Carvell for assistance following the osteoporosis diagnosis. Carvell, a physical therapist, worked with Fitterer to develop a program that emphasized bonestrengthening activities. Emily Vasey, a WHC personal trainer, set Fitterer up with an individualized weight-lifting program.

Fitterer continued her running regimen, too. Carvell said impact types of exercise like running and walking stress the bone in a positive way.

“The bone responds by becoming thicker, stronger, more dense and less prone to fracture,” Carvell said. “We also looked at ways Cazanne could build muscle strength because strength training protects joint health and stimulates an increase in bone density.”

Because calcium contributes to stronger bones, Fitterer incorporated calcium supplements and more calcium into her diet. She has always been health-conscious, but she said her calcium intake went from sporadic to a daily commitment.

“It’s never too late to improve bone health,” said Dr. Laura Gehrig, a Sanford Health orthopedic surgeon with special interests in osteoporosis treatment. “Every 10 years our skeleton turns over, making new bone cells. While it is true that bone loss increases with age, you can take steps to prevent weakening your skeleton at any age.”

Dr. Gehrig recommends three glasses of milk a day plus calcium-rich foods such as cheese, yogurt, almonds and broccoli. She also recommends more vitamin D. “In northern latitudes, vitamin D deficiency is high due to restricted sunlight, so it’s a good idea to add vitamin D supplements to improve calcium absorption.”

Called a silent disease because its victims generally have no symptoms, osteoporosis affects women four times more than men because of women’s loss of estrogen at menopause, Dr. Gehrig said. As the disease advances, patients develop chronic pain, are likely to experience major breaks such as hip fractures and eventually lose the ability to do daily tasks.

“Your doctor can help you adjust your lifestyle to avoid developing osteoporosis,” Dr. Gehrig said. “Or, if you have already been diagnosed, your doctor will help you make changes that can result in decreasing bone deterioration.”

Fitterer first learned her bone density may be poor when she participated in a free bone scan screening. Bone density scans are recommended beginning at age 50, so Fitterer had never even considered having one.

“Since I was diagnosed, I’ve had a scan every year, and every year I saw a little bit of improvement,” she said. “It’s been a seven-year process, but it’s worth it. I don’t think I could have accomplished this without the Women’s Health Center.”

An individualized fitness plan can improve several disease problems, Carvell
  Dr. Laura Gehrig
Dr. Laura Gehrig
Orthopedic surgery

Melanie Carvell, Medcenter One Women's Healt Center
Melanie Carvell
Director
Women's
Health Center
said. As a medically-based fitness center,WHC differs from many fitness centers in that its staff is not only focused on helping women develop exercise programs but can also help them recover from injuries or improve symptoms related to diseases. Physical therapists, personal trainers and massage therapists work as a team to help women feel strong and improve their health, Carvell said. WHC provides free injury evaluations for members and nonmembers.

One of Fitterer’s goals had been to run a marathon. She did that last September when she crossed the finish line for the Kroll’s Diner Bismarck Marathon. She said she plans to continue “pounding the pavement” for many years to come.

Click here for more information on Sanford Women's Health Center or call 701.323.6376. Also, follow the health center on Facebook by searching Sanford Women’s Health Center.

 

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