Hurting Down To My Bones

Toni Hurst Health Guide
  • You know that commercial on TV where Sally Field plays happily with her dog or her grandkids and she talks about bone health? She's pitching a prescription med that allegedly helps you retain or build bone mass. I pay little attention to such ads on TV but there's a line in that ad that makes me almost shiver each time I hear it: "I've got this one body and this one life..." The implication is that she needs this medicine to protect her "one body and one life."


    When I hear that line, I get scared and a little angry. Why does she have to remind me that I have one body and one life? Don't I KNOW that already? It's not as if I feel like I'm 25 anymore when I get out of bed in the morning. It's not as if I don't KNOW that some day I'm going to die. I just don't like hearing it from her.

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    I don't remember the name of the medicine, which makes the ad useless in Madison Avenue terms. In fact it has had the opposite effect on me. I started taking my over-the-counter calcium supplements, like I should have been doing a long time ago.


    Maybe 10 or 12 years ago, I had a baseline bone scan and my cheerful doctor called me to tell me I had "the bones of a 25-year-old." I was thrilled to have ANYTHING that resembled a 25-year-old, even if it was just my bones. Then about five years ago another scan showed a thinning of bone mass, ostopenia, a precursor to osteoporosis. Calcium supplements were prescribed, but I don't like taking pills so I rarely took them.


    Then Sally Field spoke to me.


    So now I take my calcium supplements. But I still don't like them. My internet and book research has confirmed what I already knew: that low-fat dairy products combined with vitamin D are helpful, and so are weight-bearing exercises or resistance training. I'm also doing more research and plan to ask my nurse practitioner about MPA, or medroxyprogesterone, a synthetic progestin which has shown some promise. From what I've seen, it may need to be combined with estrogen and so far I've been able to avoid taking estrogen. For now, I'll try to improve my diet.  


    But here's the rub: I don't really like milk or yogurt. According to some statistics, only 11% of women in the U.S. get enough calcium in their diet. So chances are YOU don't get enough calcium either. Some doctors recommend calcium (plus magnesium) supplements even if your diet is superb.


    So that brings me back to "One body, one life" and my new resolve to take my calcium pills in the morning and at night. Yes, they can lead to constipation. I can't believe I am writing about this. So I buy a package of prunes and have a few each day, because I really like them. I'd eat them anyway, but they definitely help counteract the calcium. More water in my diet (and less caffeine) would help too, but I just don't like the taste of water, or lack of taste.    


    I really hate taking pills. But I would hate having a broken hip or ankle or back even more. So there's the bottom line.


Published On: August 12, 2008