Osteoporosis: Why Me?

PJ Hamel Health Guide
  • Why me?

    That’s the natural reaction most of us have when faced with any unpleasant situation in our lives. Why did it rain on MY wedding day? Why did a hit-and-run driver hit MY car in the mall parking lot? Of all the people sitting in that meeting, why was I the one who was asked to explain why we missed our sales budget? WHY ME?

    If you have osteoporosis (or are headed that way), you’ve probably asked yourself the same question. How come I’m the one with thinning bones? What about my friends? My sister? All those old people I see playing golf and enjoying themselves…

    Why me?

    Well, considering the pervasiveness of the disease in our American society, it’s surprising more of us don’t have osteoporosis. About 10 million Americans over the age of 50 suffer from full-blown osteoporosis, and an additional 34 million have been identified as having lowered bone mass, and being at risk. In fact, it’s estimated more than half of Americans over the age of 50 are threatened by osteoporosis. Given those statistics, “Why me” and “Why NOT me?” are equally valid questions.

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    And look at the list of risk factors: it’s daunting. Being an aging (post-menopausal) woman of Caucasian or Southeast Asian descent is a huge risk factor. Hello: raise your hand if you’re in that category. I see a lot of hands out there…

    What else contributes to osteoporosis? Family history. (Did your grandmother break her hip? Watch out.) Smoking and excessive drinking. A sedentary lifestyle. Certain medical conditions that decrease calcium absorption, like Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, and vitamin D deficiency.

    What else? For women, there’s lifetime exposure to estrogen: the longer amount of time you have estrogen in your system, and the more you have, the less likely you are to get osteoporosis—and the MORE likely you are to get breast cancer. Nice choice, huh? In fact, breast cancer itself increases your osteoporosis risk, as do the drugs you take to prevent cancer from coming back.

    But wait—there’s more. Taking corticosteroids (e.g., prednisone) increases your osteoporosis risk. As does drinking an excessive amount of caffeinated soda. As does an overactive thyroid—or (potentially) the drugs you take to treat an under-active thyroid. And how about this: both depression itself, and many of the drugs you take to treat depression, can encourage osteoporosis. Talk about damned if you do…

    So yeah, there are a lot of factors out there that encourage your bones to thin. Some are controllable; many aren’t. But before you send out invitations to your pity party, look at what might be contributing to your bone loss, and find out if it’s something that a lifestyle change can head off. 

    Calcium deficiency is often a case of 1) not enough calcium in your diet, which should include supplements to bring you up to the optimal level; and 2) not enough vitamin D3 to help your body absorb that calcium. Check with your doctor for a recommended daily dose of both; most post-menopausal women should get 1500mg of calcium, and 1000IU of vitamin D3.

  • As for that sedentary lifestyle—you KNOW there’s something you can do about it. I’ve harped on this subject enough; you can exercise, or not. Your choice. Just remember the ramifications when your choice is “I think I’ll relax on the couch with a bowl of chips.”

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    And then there’s smoking (stop), excessive drinking (stop), and too many cans of cola (including diet; stop). Yes, these are addictions. Yes, they’re hard to break. Again, it’s your choice. Your body. Your life.

    “Why me?” Bad luck. Lifestyle choices. Illness. Whatever the reason you’re dealing with bone loss, you’ve got plenty of company. You can choose to bemoan your fate and feel sorry for yourself. Or choose to do everything you can to preserve your bones, then accept the outcome, whatever it is, with a good heart.

    We can’t control much in this life. But the one thing we absolutely can control is attitude.

    Have a good one!

Published On: October 23, 2008