Why Overweight Women Have Strong Bones

Dr. Zuckerman is chairman of the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at NYU Hospital for Joint Diseases and the Walter A.L. Thompson professor of orthopaedic surgery at the NYU School of Medicine. He was also elected the 2009 President of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.  

A graduate of Cornell University in New York and the Medical College of Wisconsin, Dr. Zuckerman completed his internship and residency at the University of Washington and a fellowship at Harvard’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital, in addition to duties as a visiting clinician in shoulder surgery at the Mayo Clinic.

Dr. Zuckerman is recognized internationally as an expert in shoulder surgery and hip and knee replacement. Dr. Zuckerman has served as President of the American Shoulder and Elbow Surgeons and has published over 250 scientific articles. The Orthopaedic Research and Education Foundation (OREF) presented Dr. Zuckerman with its Clinical Research Award in 2002 and he has also received the “Teacher of the Year” Award on five separate occasions from the residents at the NYU Hospital for Joint Diseases.

  • Transcript

TRANSCRIPT

Question: What should women be concerned about?

Joseph Zuckerman: Women bring a certain different set of issues that have to be considered. And for women, I guess the big issue is osteoporosis, or osteopenia. And we know that as women, as they go through menopause and they're hormonal balance changes, they tend to develop some weakening of their bone, osteoporosis.

Osteoporosis is a condition that means that you are losing bone mass. Osteopenia is a description of a lesser condition which you are progressing to osteoporosis. What that means is that because of various factors. Inactivity could be one; your genetic makeup as well as the hormonal issues that I just referred to, you're decreasing bone mass. That predisposes to a risk of injury, easy fracture for relatively minor type falls. So, there's a big emphasis on maintaining bone health, particularly in women.

Now, osteoporosis and osteopenia occurs in men also, but to a lesser extent. Now, the interesting part here is that if obesity has any positive effect, and I'm not suggesting obesity for anybody, but obese men and women -- older men and women, tend not to have problems with osteoporosis. The reason is that their body weight subjects their skeleton to sufficient weight that bones respond to physiologic stress. So, if I just lie in bed and I don't have a weight bearing force on my bones, well, the processes that resorb bone, or take away bone, outstrip the processes that deposit bone. When you're up and active and things, the processes that deposit bone because of the stress exceed those that resorb bone, or take away bone. But if you're not doing anything, or inactivity, that's going to predispose to more osteoporosis. So, being active is important. And if you have a lot of weight on it, all right, that tends to be positive. But, that's not the message here. The message is, activity and evaluation of osteoporosis is the problem.

Most women think that this is a problem that develops after menopause, but the real time to treat this is at the age when you think you may enter menopause. So, looking at it then, evaluating it, and getting treatment at a time so you prevent yourself from getting osteopenic as opposed to finding out afterwards and than have to kind of try to move your way back to a more acceptable range. So, bone health is a very important thing for women.

 


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