Stay Ahead of Osteoporosis

Author Gail Sheehy spreads the word about this bone-thinning condition.

Health Monitor Staff
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Journalist Gail Sheehy made a splash with her best-selling 1976 book Passages, which described the stages of adulthood. Later she wrote another best seller, The Silent Passage, about menopause—partly because of watching family members suffer from the loss of bone-protecting estrogen. “My grandmother had a widow’s hump due to osteoporosis,” recalls Gail. Gail’s mom also had it, and her mom’s bones became so weak that even sitting was painful.

Gail now wants to spread the word about osteoporosis. Read on for the facts!

Are you at risk?
The answer is yes if you’re a woman who is petite or past menopause, have a family history of osteoporosis, take certain medications (e.g., prednisone) or have ever broken a bone as an adult. “A woman’s risk of breaking a hip is equal to her combined risk of breast, uterine and ovarian cancer,” notes Gail.

Ask your healthcare team: When should I start having bone density scans?

Your biggest risk: age.
Gail stopped having scans at 60. At 70, her doctor urged her to get a scan: “She said age is the most important risk factor for osteoporosis.” The surprising results: Gail had osteopenia (low bone mass).

Ask your healthcare team: Am I doing enough to protect my bones?

If you have osteoporosis...
Get treatment! Not doing so can lead to fractures and other problems, such as those suffered by Gail’s mom and grandmother.

Ask your healthcare team: Is my treatment working? If your bones are still weak, take heart: There are several medications that can treat bone loss. If one doesn’t help you, another one might!

January 2013