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Doc: Higher-impact exercise is needed to help bones

Keith Roach
To Your Health

Dear Dr. Roach: I am a 63-year-old woman who went through an extremely easy menopause — zero hot flashes! When I went for my annual exam a couple years ago, I had a DEXA Scan that showed osteopenia, primarily in my spine. I was horrified! I increased my calcium and vitamin D-3 intake and worked hard at doing an indoor conditioning walking program on DVD. I lost 40 pounds. I feel good for the most part. This year it was time to have a repeat DEXA Scan, and the report wasn’t what I was hoping to hear. My hips have improved, but the density of my vertebrae stayed the same. “Do weight-bearing exercise. Continue with your calcium and vitamin D-3 supplements,” was the advice. Please tell me what exercise will help my spine?

S.T.

Dear S.T.: Walking is a great exercise, and I think you have done a great job. However, for your bones, a little higher impact may be what’s needed to strengthen them up. Dancing, jumping rope and climbing stairs are all ways to get a bit more bone stress in your workout. Lifting weights is another great way to strengthen muscles and bones. Although there are medications to improve bone density, doing these exercises has so many more benefits.

Dear Dr. Roach: My father-in-law was widowed almost a year ago, after 60 years of marriage. It has been a difficult adjustment, but he has made great strides. He has some habits that are of concern. He makes a big bowl of Jell-O and eats as much as he wants out of the bowl without using a serving dish. He just eats it out of the bowl and puts the bowl back into the refrigerator until the next meal. I am concerned that he is introducing bacteria into the remaining Jell-O. Could this explain his repeated bouts of diarrhea?

J.E.

Dear J.E.: Your father-in-law is introducing his mouth bacteria, of which there is a large variety, into the remaining Jell-O by passing the spoon to his mouth and back. Normal mouth bacteria aren’t the bacteria responsible for food poisoning, like Staph, E. coli and Salmonella. All the same, it would be wiser and safer to put these foods onto a separate dish with one spoon and use a clean spoon to serve himself seconds. I can’t say whether his repeated bouts of diarrhea come from his eating and dish-saving idiosyncrasy. I don’t think they do.

Readers may email questions to ToYourGoodHealth@med.cornell.edu.