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 4 of 4
estrogen, calcitonin, and alendronate. Let's take a look
at differences between them;
Hormone replacement therapy, usually undertaken by a
woman during and/or after menopause, helps prevent
osteoporosis. However, estrogen is not a treatment for
In fact, estrogen is not for everyone. Although
estrogen replacement works well for the majority, some
people (one young woman I know personally), had the
unusual, but potentially fatal side effect of blood
clotting. After taking the standard daily oral dose of
Premarin longer than one year, this woman had a pulmonary
embolism. She had to be hospitalized for days, then
submit to a months-long blood thinner medication. Trying
to tolerate at least some estrogen, she and her doctor
decided for her to take 1/10 the usual dose of topical
It's now five years later. She still takes no oral
estrogen. She has tolerated the Estrace. As her lab tests
indicate that she is not prone to clotting, the embolism
was almost certainly a side effect of the Premarin.
Sometime during the five years when she had
essentially no estrogen, and no calcium program, she
This woman was fortunate she "just happened"
to have a dexa scan. By discovering this bone disease
now, she can take action. She's a prime candidate for
taking medicine to halt or reverse osteo.
Years ago the medical field had no answer for
osteoporosis. We are fortunate that recent years have
opened two very different treatment options. If you have
osteoporosis, ask what your doctor recommends for you.
Like a lot of things, though, osteo treatment is a good
news/bad news scenario.
Miacalcin (calcitonin) is a drug that can prevent
further bone loss. It does not rebuild the affected
This drug is administered via a nasal spray. Some
people tolerate it well. Others may have side effects, of
course the most common one being nasal irritation. The
passages can become quite inflamed and sore. Some side
effects are severe enough to warrant stopping the
For many people, Miacalcin is an excellent way to stop
I can't stress enough the fact that neither Miacalcin
nor Fosamax is a replacement for calcium! It's imperative
to take 1200-1500 mg calcium daily, to provide your body
with the ongoing supply it requires.
Fosamax (alendronate) is the osteoporosis drug of the
'90s. It is a well-tested, new drug that can stop
osteoporosis and actually start to rebuild bone.
A study of medication's efficacy in rebuilding bone
indicate that oral Fosamax improved bone by an average of
10%, which led to a 50% reduction in fractures.
If you are prescribed this oral medication, your
physician (and probably the pharmacist too) will stress
the routine you must follow to minimize side effects. One
thing about this medicine-you must take it in the
morning, and you must remain upright after taking it. If
you lie down or bend over (say to weed the garden),
within a few hours of taking this medicine, you can
develop what amounts to a burned esophagus. Sit, stand,
or walk: Do not nap. This most likely will result in no
problems with the esophagus.
So, you're OK on the esophagus? It seems not too hard
to get past that. But then you have to watch for side
effects farther down the system: The intestines can
become irritated, causing symptoms such as burning, and
For my friend's intestinal problems, her doctor
recommended a tradeoff. To retain the Fosamax benefits,
she takes the drug for five days, then takes a two-day
break from it. (I've heard some people actually may
switch to calcitonin when taking a break from Fosamax-ALL
the while continuing the calcium, of course.)
My friend's prognosis? "Take "Fosamax and
calcium for one year and you'll likely have repaired and
very strong bones. After that, just keep up with the
Not bad, considering that two decades ago osteoporosis
treatment basically was not an option.
Experts say a strategy to arrest osteoporosis includes
a combination of exercise, diet, medication, and safety.
The huge risk with osteo is what happens after a fall.
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 from
blood clots that develop after hip replacement surgery.
Anyone can fall, especially when tired or ill. Beyond
that, the risk of falling increases for anyone with a
history of any of the following:
- falling, fainting, or losing consciousness
- weakness, dizziness, balance problems
- medication use for high blood pressure, nerves,
sleeping, or depression
- impaired vision; or problems with muscle
Many wellness centers offer complete safety
assessments, as well as consulting. For now, here are a
few tips to decrease your risk of falling. Look at your
home with a fresh eye. Many simple things can increase
- Clear the walkways: Don't partially block a path
- Don't store anything near a landing or threshold
- Ensure carpets are not loose. Get rid of or tack
down throw rugs
- Use rubber-backed mats on the floor outside the
- Use a night light if you tend to get up at night
- Install railings outside and in the bath area
- Use a cane or walker if you need to
- Buy a portable phone so you do not need to hurry
to answer a ringing phone
And a heads-up for outside the home: One common fall
is caused by inattention to those cement car stops in
These are inexpensive precautions compared to the cost
and pain of a fracture.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
Back to the top / The New Sideroad/ Go to the latest column
Issue # 4
Tuesday, Nov. 25, 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
Part 3 of 4
- - insights into diagnosis, and basic
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
The first in a new series on Sleep Disorders!