Osteoporosis Prevention Month: 10 Ways YOU Can Make a Difference

PJ Hamel Health Guide
  • If you’re reading these words, you’re probably interested in osteoporosis – either because you have it; you’re trying to prevent it; or you’re helping someone else deal with it. And if that’s the case, then you may already know that May is Osteoporosis Awareness and Prevention Month.

    But, despite the best efforts of the National Osteoporosis Foundation, including its month-long campaign and Webinar series, Healthy Bones, Build Them For Life®; and its very cool (I kid you not) site for parents and their young daughters, Best Bones Forever, most Americans are just barely – if at all – aware of their risk for osteoporosis.

    Add This Infographic to Your Website or Blog With This Code:

    What’s the best way to deliver a message to the typical American consumer? First, repetition; and second, word of mouth.

    Turns out we as a society are becoming increasingly jaded to advertising; we simply tune it out. J.C. Penney can send you flyers and churn out TV commercials, to no avail. But let your girlfriend text you that Penney’s is taking 40% off fashion shoes – you’re there.

    So, sorry, NOF – you’re trying to build awareness the best way you know how. But you’re still a faceless non-profit, irrelevant in most Americans’ lives. What you need is an army of spokespeople; women talking to women. (I know, men get osteoporosis, too. But do you think men are going to sit around talking about it? Get real.)

    One of the many things we women are good at is talking to one another. How about if each of us vows, during this final week of National Osteoporosis Awareness and Prevention Month, to find opportunities to talk to our friends and colleagues about osteoporosis?

    It doesn’t have to be serious; let the subject bubble up naturally. Here are 10 ways you might build osteoporosis awareness via our most effective marketing tool: W2WOM – woman to woman word of mouth.

    1. You’re all gathered in the break room, grabbing a cup of coffee and a mid-morning snack. Megan is eating a bagel with butter. Ask if she ever substitutes cream cheese for butter, and let her know it’s a great source of calcium – key for avoiding fractures.

    Milk, yogurt, cheese – all come in healthy, low-fat, delicious forms, and are critical for building bones. Push them every chance you get.

    2. See Jen over there with her diet Coke? She’s young; she doesn’t have to worry about osteoporosis, right?

    Wrong. Some studies have shown that drinking an excessive amount of diet cola can compromise bone health. Suggest to Jen that a zero-calorie flavored water might be a lot healthier, and just as tasty.

    3. You’re playing cards at the senior center, and the gals are having a whine session about health issues. (My dad used to call this “the organ recital”).  Listen carefully; if anyone mentions type I diabetes; celiac disease; kidney problems; an overactive thyroid; an automimmune disease (e.g., rheumatoid arthritis); or steroid drugs, which can include asthma medications, speak up. Tell them that all of these conditions can lead to osteoporosis.

  • I guarantee most of the women there will be surprised.

    4. You’re at your son’s soccer game, and one of the moms is talking about her super-fit teenage daughter. “I don’t know where she gets the energy. She runs in the morning, has track practice after school, lifts weights after that – and she barely eats a thing. These kids are so crazy...”

    This may sound admirable; but it should be setting off alarm bells in your head. Young women who exercise to excess, and don’t consume enough calories, are at great risk for osteoporosis. First, they’re probably not getting enough calories, calcium, or vitamin D to support their bones. And second, they may not be having a regular period; excessive fitness can lead to amenorrhea – “absent menstruation.” This in turn leads to lack of estrogen, which leads to bone loss.

    Add This Infographic to Your Website or Blog With This Code:

    Without seeming like a spoilsport, simply mention that super-fit young women are, surprisingly, prone to osteoporosis.

    5. Pat is a sweet little old lady in your accounting department. She’s tiny as a bird, and dresses beautifully in her size 2 clothes. She looks so frail, sometimes you worry about her…

    …as well you should. Little old ladies – and I stress all three words,  “little,” “old” and “ladies” – are very much at risk for osteoporosis. Being female, being old, and having a small frame are all key osteoporosis risk factors.

    Next time you see Pat, mention to her you’re thinking of having a DEXA scan. You’ve never had one, and it’s about time to check how your bones are doing. Ask her about her experience with DEXA – what’s it like? Does it hurt? – and see what she says.

    If she says she’s never had one; or hasn’t had one in years, mention that you’ve heard it’s good to have a DEXA regularly once you’re older than 60.

    6. Here’s a tough one. One of your girlfriends suspects her college football player son is binge drinking on the weekends. “I can never get him on Sunday; he won’t answer my emails or his phone. And he’s gained a lot of weight. He just looks bad.”

    Not that she needs something else to worry about, but young male athletes who drink to excess are also hurting their bones. The combination of alcohol, lots of exercise, and lack of adequate nutrition (do you think the typical college diet includes multiple daily servings of dairy?) is a triple threat to bones. Mention that fact to her while you’re commiserating.

    7. “Forget” to take your calcium and vitamin D supplements at breakfast, and bring them with you to work. Ostentatiously take them mid-morning, with a glass of calcium-fortified OJ. “Oh, I’m so dumb – I forgot to take my vitamins this morning! I hope you remembered to take yours – and your calcium too, right? You ARE getting 1500mg of calcium and 1,000U of vitamin D a day, aren’t you?”

    8. Keep a container of Viactiv calcium chews on your desk. Caramel, or chocolate – both delicious. When someone stops by, smile and offer them a Viactiv. “Have you had your calcium today?”

  • 9. Talk about food – now THAT’S an easy subject! Steer the conversation to breakfast. Mention that your bowl of Total cereal is a nutritional powerhouse: just 100 calories and .5g of fat, plus 3g of fiber and 1000mg – stress this – 1000MG OF CALCIUM, a full two-thirds of what most women our age should have. 

    Add This Infographic to Your Website or Blog With This Code:

    How about lunch? Tell your pals that a big salad is not only diet-friendly, it’ll probably fulfill your daily vitamin K requirement. And sufficient vitamin K is one of the lesser-known ways to ensure bone health.

    Mention you favorite snack: “light” (read: sugar-free), nonfat vanilla yogurt. You’d swear you were eating ice cream. Just 80 calories, 0g fat, and 150mg calcium. Sprinkle in ¼ cup of crunchy Total cereal, and that’s just under 500mg of calcium – the remaining third of your daily requirement.

    Eating healthy, calcium-rich foods doesn’t have to mean Brussels sprouts and broccoli. Calcium-fortified OJ and cereal, and naturally calcium-rich dairy products are both simple ways to add valuable calcium to your diet. Clue your friends in.

    10. Mention that you’ve started a new exercise program. Groannnnnn…. I know, only those who already exercise enjoy talking about it! But take the opportunity to say that you’ve joined Curves, and that the circuit of weight-lifting stations, plus the jumping you choose to do on the recovery pads in between, is the perfect combination of weight-bearing exercise and “bone pounding” – the controlled stress your bones need to stay strong.

    Ladies, Curves is just plain fun. And it’s not expensive, like so many gyms. Plus you can be in and out in 35 minutes, having had a great workout.

    Can you tell I’m a big proponent of Curves? It’s a great osteoporosis-prevention workout – spread the word!

    Osteoporosis awareness and prevention? You’re there. Thanks for helping the NOF do its job this month.

Published On: May 22, 2010