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the Author:

Shara Rendell-Smock, author

Shara Rendell-Smock has written more than twenty computer software manuals, numerous newspaper articles, including a monthly health column for The Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

She's the author of two books of non-fiction: Getting Hooked: Fiction's Opening Sentences 1950's- 1990's
Living With Big Cats: The Story of Jungle Larry, Safari Jane, and David Tetzlaff
For ordering information, click here.

To read more about these books, participate in an ongoing joke contest, surf on over to .
The author currently lives on Florida's Space Coast.

Shara is the Featured Author for October 1997
at .


Osteoporosis--It's More Likely Than You Think

Part 1 of 4

IT TURNS OUT that we were wrong to accept osteoporosis as a part of aging. New medications can slow and even reverse the disease. The key to preventing further bone breakdown is finding out you need such meds.

Osteoporosis leads to weakened bones and increased susceptibility to fractures of the hip, spine and wrist. Its main cause in postmenopausal women is a decline in estrogen, which can be dramatic--2% to 8% per year.

In the U.S. today, more than ten million Americans have osteoporosis. Another 18 million are at considerable risk. The dollar cost of this disease annually is currently $14 billion.

Each year more than a million fractures are attributed to osteoporosis. One quarter of these breaks are hip fractures, comprising the twelfth greatest cause of death in postmenopausal women. Annually nearly 50,000 hip fracture patients die from complications, usually due to blood clots that develop after hip replacement surgery.

With that astonishing fact, it's easy to panic when learning you have osteoporosis. The diagnosis implies that since the bone damage is done, it's too late to get help. Today this is not always the case. It is never too late to start taking medication to mend your bones. Whatever your age, you can begin now to improve your bone health for the rest of your life. Otherwise, the threat of this disease is like a walking time bomb.

We don't think of osteoporosis as a men's problem, but it can be. They have two advantages that protect them. Men do not undergo menopause. They also begin from a better standpoint: As youngsters, males generally produce more bone mass than females do.

Our bones normally regenerate. They are living tissues, much like skin. The reabsorption cycle consists of eating away the old and regenerating new. The cycle continues after menopause, but while the bones are being eaten away, they are replaced ten times slower after postmenopause.

Calcium is crucial to bone regeneration. The body will get its needed calcium one way or another. When we do not supply our bodies with adequate calcium, the body leeches this mineral from our bones.


As bone density decreases, the weakened bones--most commonly the wrist, hip, and spine--can break easily. Compression fractures in the spine, another result of osteoporosis, may cause back pain, hump-back (Dowager hump), height loss, and curvature of the spine.

Osteoporosis's destruction is similar to that of termite-ridden wood. You don't see the damage coming. Called a silent disease, osteoporosis has no outward symptoms. The person is unaware of the damage taking place until a fracture occurs. And this may be triggered simply by stepping off a curb the wrong way.

Possible Consequences

  • Permanent disability
  • Curvature of the spine
  • Hip fractures
  • Bones fracture easily
  • Restricted mobility/crippling
  • Loss of height
  • Death due to injury

    Next week: I'll present the risk factors of osteoporosis and some of our misconceptions about the disease.

The New Sideroad / Go to the latest column

About Osteoporosis and
this Column

Stats indicate that for those over the age of 50, one of every two women and one in eight men will have an osteoporosis-related fracture. Our sedentary lifestyle puts us at risk for this disease. Yet osteoporosis is not inevitable. Throughout November, I will relate information on this disease and how we can prevent it.

Do you have comments or insights on osteoporosis? What works for you? What would you like to read about? Know of a hot website I should mention? Write me at Don't be shy! I like readers' input.

Part of the original Sideroad. Text 1997, Shara Rendell-Smock. Posted Nov. 2, 1997. The new Sideroad is now receiving traffic at

Shara's books can be ordered from her web site at

Living With Big Cats: The Story of Jungle Larry, Safari Jane, and David Tetzlaff -

Getting Hooked: Fiction's Opening Sentences 1950's- 1990's -