Shara Rendell-Smock has written more than
twenty computer software manuals, numerous newspaper
articles, including a monthly health column for The
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
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
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
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
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:
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
- 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.
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.)
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
Back to the top / The New Sideroad / Go to the latest column
Issue # 3
Tuesday, Nov. 18, 1997
of 4 - - details the likelihood of
developing this disease, and its dangers and
Part 2 of 4
- - presents the risk factors of
osteoporosis and some of our misconceptions about the
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
New medical treatments to stop osteoporosis, and
safety in the home (re: how to prevent falls and broken