Our "Fallen" Leaders, Clinton and Sotomayor: Victims of Osteoporosis?

PJ Hamel Health Guide
  • From the Los Angeles Times’ blogger Andrew Malcolm, in a blogpost from last Wednesday:

    "Being a New York woman in the Obama administration seems like a dangerous thing to be these days.

    "First, Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor broke her ankle in a fall en route to Washington from New York.

    "Now, former New York Sen. Hillary Clinton, who's already safely traveled thousands of miles around the world as President Obama's secretary of State, tripped and fell near the White House on Wednesday, breaking her right elbow.

    "The 61-year-old former first lady was en route to a meeting there and was treated and released from George Washington University Hospital.

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    "According to a brief midnight announcement from an aide, Clinton will undergo surgery next week to repair the damage. So much for handshaking for a while. Sotomayor is making her way around Capitol Hill to Senate interviews on crutches."

    As noted, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is 61. She broke her elbow in a fall in a parking garage. Judge Sonia Sotomayor, who’ll turn 55 this Thursday, broke her ankle in a fall in an airport. 

    Am I the only one who’s hearing warning bells? Here we have two middle-aged women, both of whom fell while walking, both of whom broke bones.

    I mean, these gals weren’t sky-diving, involved in car accidents, or even playing tennis. They were just… walking. And they fell. And they broke an elbow and an ankle, respectively.

    The National Osteoporosis Foundation notes that one of every two American women over the age of 50 will suffer an osteoporosis-related bone fracture in her remaining lifetime.

    Osteoporosis develops without symptoms. Many women are diagnosed with osteoporosis only after they’ve broken a bone. Could these two national leaders be suffering from osteoporosis?

    If Hillary and Sonia haven’t yet had baseline DEXA scans, I hope someone is now advising them to do so.

    All women age 65 and over are advised to get their bone mineral density (BMD) assessed via DEXA scan, a fast, easy X-ray that quickly indicates if osteoporosis or osteopenia is a problem. In addition, women under age 65 with known risk factors—such as a family history, or having a slight body build—are advised to have their DEXA earlier.

    I don’t know if there’s osteoporosis in either Sec. of State Clinton or Judge Sotomayor’s families. But I do know Mrs. Clinton has a fairly small frame. (I’m 5’ 6”, I’ve stood next to her, and she’s smaller and lighter than me.) And I know Judge Sotomayor has had type 1 diabetes since she was a teenager, which automatically increases her risk for osteoporosis.

    Seems to me both of these women might be prime candidates for osteoporosis.

    But the fact that apparently only ABC News, among the national media, has made the bone fracture/possible osteoporosis connection tells me that this silent disease still isn’t on our collective radar in any significant way.

    Which is a shame. And potentially lethal, for the 34 million Americans currently thought to be at risk for future osteoporosis.

  • Thirty-five years ago, first lady Betty Ford used her breast cancer diagnosis to get that formerly silent killer out of the closet and into the national spotlight, inspiring millions of American women to get regular mammograms.

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    Wouldn’t it be great if Mrs. Clinton and Judge Sotomayor turned their misfortune into something positive by urging Americans to assess their possible risk for osteoporosis? 

    I can't think of two spokepeople with higher visibility.

Published On: June 22, 2009