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Go To Health! Because Life's Too Short. . .

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 Authorlink!

She is also the Featured Author for November at Writing Now.

Osteoporosis--It's More Likely Than You Think

Part 3 of 4


Osteoporosis is a preventable disease. No one needs to live with a Dowager's hump in the 90s. Learn your risk factors, and if you think you might be susceptible to osteoporosis, have a bone mass density (BMD) test.

Physicians strongly recommend women have this measurement early in menopause. Current technology gives us a choice of two diagnostic tests, either of which will ascertain an individual's bone mass. These noninvasive, painless tests, coupled with advances in medical treatments, allow us to fight this disease--a chance we did not have in the past.

One procedure involves a CT scanner rotating around the patient, measuring the bone density of four vertebrae. The other common test is a Dexa scan (dual energy x-ray absorptiometry). Both are excellent tools, but the lower radiation Dexa scan is effective and less expensive.

Once a patient has had either of these tests, a physician will compare the reading with standard measurements to determine whether the bone density is normal. If the results show a bone loss of ten percent or more, the diagnosis is osteoporosis.

Other tests can help diagnose osteoporosis, but not definitively - these tests range from a blood test to check the calcium level, to screening for factors that may contribute to the condition (such as thyroid problems).

These tests are generally covered by insurance and Medicare. Carriers are leaning toward prevention, preferring to pay for the tests and medication to possibly head off a fracture and hip replacement.

A bone density study soon may be one of the three building blocks of women's health care, along with a pap smear and a mammogram. Physicians recommend BMD tests for women over 50, or for those who have gone through menopause naturally or surgically, and for 60- to 70-year-old men.


Options to deal with osteoporosis are nonmedical and medical. Next week I will cover the latest medical treatments. Nonmedical strategies to avoid or lessen osteoporosis include a nutritious diet, vitamin and mineral supplements, and exercise. Typically patients control this disease through a combination of approaches.


How much do you need and where do you find it? The National Institute of Health recommends:

  • 1,200 mg/day for women ages 12-24
  • 1,000 mg/day for pre-menopausal women
  • and 1,500 mg/day for post-menopausal women.
One way to replenish calcium is through nonfat dairy foods, like skim milk and yogurt. You can also get calcium from dark green leafy vegetables, broccoli, soybeans, almonds, and fish with edible bones, such as sardines.

Consuming calcium-enriched foods is another good choice. Calcium-fortified orange juice contains 300 mg per cup and calcium-enriched bread, 290 mg per slice.

Many people find it difficult to eat enough calcium-containing foods to meet the daily requirement and turn to calcium supplements. Calcium carbonate and calcium citrate are typical choices. The latter is easier to absorb for people over 60.

Calcium derived from dolomite, bone meal, and oyster shell is no longer widely recommended. We need to avoid those sources, because we have polluted our environment: Some of those sources are now contaminated with metals.

The calcium story does not end here. Once you get sufficient calcium, you need to maximize its absorption. Strategies to improve calcium absorption are having a low-sodium diet, and avoiding the following: alcohol, smoking, and excessive diet soda and caffeine. In one study of 22- to 30-year-old women, those who consumed three cups of caffeinated beverage daily had twice the normal loss of calcium, through urine output within three hours of drinking the caffeine.

Vitamin D is also important to bone health. By getting a little sun, drinking milk, or taking supplements, this vitamin increases the body's ability to absorb calcium.

The E Word: Exercise

Exercise is another nonmedical way to treat osteoporosis. Weight-bearing exercise causes the body to generate more bone in the area receiving the added weight. Walking and stair climbing, as opposed to swimming, are examples of weight-bearing exercise.

However, if the osteoporosis is advanced to the point of a person's bones being brittle, weight-bearing exercise should be avoided. In this case, exercise that takes weight off the bones (such as swimming) is recommended. The goal in that situation is to increase joint and muscle mobility without further stressing fragile bones. (Your bone density test results determine which type exercise will best benefit you.)

Next week:

A wrap up of this topic, dealing with safety in the home (how to prevent falls and broken bones) and new medical treatments to stop osteoporosis.

In two weeks I will begin a series on sleep disorders--something we all are troubled by to some degree in this work world. Do you have comments or insights on Sleep Disorders? What works for you? I'd love to hear from you on this topic! E-mail me at

Back to the top / The New Sideroad / Go to the latest column

Issue # 3
Tuesday, Nov. 18, 1997


Part 1 of 4 - - details the likelihood of developing this disease, and its dangers and consequences.

Part 2 of 4 - - presents the risk factors of osteoporosis and some of our misconceptions about the disease.

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.

Next Week:

New medical treatments to stop osteoporosis, and safety in the home (re: how to prevent falls and broken bones.)

Part of the original Sideroad. Text 1997, Shara Rendell-Smock. Posted Nov. 18, 1997. The new Sideroad is now receiving traffic at

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