National Osteoporosis Awareness Month: Spread the Word

PJ Hamel Health Guide
  • May is National Osteoporosis Awareness and Prevention Month. Big deal, right? Well, yeah; if you want to help save your family, friends, and colleagues from going through the pain and fear that comes with an osteoporosis diagnosis. Here are 10 simple and effective ways to spread the word about this disease.

    “Hey, I’ve got a question for you…”
    You’re at work. The meeting’s about to begin. While everyone’s still in chat mode, ask this question: “Who here has a mom or grandma who’s broken a hip?”

    Surprisingly, most people still don’t know that a broken hip (or any broken bone) is often the way older people are diagnosed with osteoporosis. And that osteoporosis is hereditary. If anyone answers “yes” to your question, tell her she may be at risk.

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    Having a cookout? Label the drinks.
    Bet most of your friends don’t know that many carbonated beverages leach calcium from your bones – and the chief offender is diet cola, everyone’s favorite.

    Label your cooler of soda “bad for your bones” – then offer your own homemade “soda” – calcium-fortified OJ, fresh-squeezed lime juice, sliced strawberries, sparkling water, and a touch of sweetener. (Just make sure the seltzer doesn’t include calcium-unfriendly phosphoric acid.)

    At the gym
    If you go to a gym regularly, you see the same people over and over – people with whom you bond as you sweat off those extra calories.

    Do you have any pals who stick to the treadmill or elliptical, and avoid those scary looking weight machines over in the corner? Let them know that weight-bearing exercise – e.g., weight-lifting – is the very best exercise for their bones.

    For moms of teenage daughters
    Did you know that teenagers can be diagnosed with full-blown osteoporosis? In fact, some of the seemingly fittest teenage girls are at highest risk, due to excessive dieting and prolonged hard exercise.

    Tell your soccer mom friends (or tennis mom, swimming mom, lacrosse mom…) – a teenage girl who both works out strenuously and diets heavily is potentially injuring her bones, and putting herself at risk for osteoporosis.

    TGIF? Discuss what you drink.
    You’re hitting the bistro after work Friday with a bunch of colleagues. Most, like you, are middle-aged or older. Before the server arrives, let your friends know that wine – not beer, not a Margarita – is the best alcoholic choice for bone health in older women.

    Share this shocking fact: osteoporosis can be deadly
    Most people think of osteoporosis as a bother – not a potential death sentence.

    But here’s a surprising statistic: a woman’s lifetime risk of hip fracture is equal to the combined risks of breast, uterine, and ovarian cancer. And in any one year, more women will die of complications from a hip fracture than of breast cancer. 

    Gently bring up THAT fact next time the discussion turns to breast cancer.

    Break out the vitamin D
    You’re having breakfast with friends. Shake your vitamin D supplement out of the pill pack (you brought it, right?), and start a conversation about “the sunshine vitamin.” Most women understand that calcium is good for your bones; but fewer realize the critical role of vitamin D in calcium absorption. Educate them – as you enjoy your eggs and toast.


  • “Hey, who’s had their DEXA?”

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    Are you a Boomer? As we move into our 60s, it’s important to ask your doctor about a baseline DEXA scan: a test that reveals bone density and strength.

    While we older women have been getting mammograms and pap smears for years, a DEXA scan is something new. The current recommendation for DEXA scans is to begin at age 65 – unless family history or other underlying factors increase osteoporosis risk, in which case a baseline scan should be done earlier.

    Ask your older friends, “Have you had your DEXA yet?” If the answer is a quizzical look – educate them.

    “Name one symptom of osteoporosis.”
    Pose this question to a group of your friends, and I’ll bet you’re met with a wall of blank faces.

    Which isn’t unexpected; osteoporosis is often labeled “silent,” and for good reason: its symptoms are usually non-existent; at best, they’re subtle.

    You may exercise, eat healthy, feel great, look great… and still be well on your way to osteoporosis. Let your friends know that the first step in fighting this disease is to be aware of their own personal osteoporosis risk factors.
     
    “You look great! But… how are your bones?”
    As women, our culture teaches us from childhood on: thin is better. Never mind natural body type, ethnicity, or culture; all of our societal role models are thin. Thus, as we age, it’s natural to admire those of our friends who’ve managed to retain their “girlish figure.”

    But older women who are small, thin, with a “slight” figure, are at increased risk for osteoporosis. In fact, a thin frame is one of the chief risk factors for osteoporosis in older women.

    Gently ask your friends who fit this picture: have you spoken to your doctor about osteoporosis?

    Source

    National Osteoporosis Foundation NOF Fast Facts (http://www.nof.org/)

Published On: May 01, 2012