RA, Osteoporosis, and Exercise

Published Online: Wednesday, May 1, 2002

For patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA)?particularly older women?the risk of osteoporotic fractures due to low bone mass is double that of patients without RA. According to Dr. Ole Rintek Madsen of Bispebjerg University in Copenhagen and his colleagues, however, a regimen of regular exercise could provide help in preserving bone mass and strength in such patients.

Writing in the April issue of Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases, Dr. Madsen reported on his team?s investigation of the relationship between bone mineral density and associated factors in 67 women who had had RA for an average of 15 years. Most were taking glucocorticoids, which carry a known increased osteoporosis risk.

The strength of the women?s thigh muscles was linked to bone strength using several measures that are independent of age, disease duration, and total steroid dosage over time. Women with lower thigh muscle strength were found to have below-normal thighbone density.

According to Dr. Madsen, this outcome reveals that ?reduced muscle strength is a stronger determinant of bone mass than are other traditional markers of disease severity. The finding emphasizes the importance of exercise programs in the prevention of bone loss and osteoporotic fractures in rheumatoid arthritis.?

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