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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!

Ask Shara! - An E-mail Question about Osteoporosis

"Dear Shara:

. . . At age 28 and pre child-bearing, I think I'd be foolish not to pay attention to early prevention strategies.  How do I measure up, in your opinion?

  •     I don't drink much milk, but I eat brocolli, cheese, and don't drink too much coffee.    
  • I don't take supplements, aside from the occassional multi-vitamin when I have a cold coming on (it has some calcium)    
  • I don't exercise too regularly now. . .my job as an itinerate music teacher sees me walking the halls and on my feet all day.

I'm sure you'd prefer I ask my doctor, but I'm curious for you feedback if you have the time.

Heather from Ontario"

Dear Heather,

First of all, I'd say find out whether any of your family has had osteoporosis. Get the genetic question answered in your mind, if you can.

White, slender women have higher rates of osteo.

It's good that you are premenopausal. Your natural estrogen will help your body use the calcium it does receive.

Like you, I spent years not drinking milk and not taking calcium supplements. We are shooting ourselves in the foot when we do not supplement our calcium intake. A high percentage of people, especially women, do develop osteoporosis.

From my research on the subject, I'd say, at your age, with your background and lifestyle, the best things you can do for yourself at your age: take calcium supplements and keep exercising.

Send your questions to!

Practical Ways to Overcome Sleep Disorders - Part 1

What do you get if you cross an insomniac agnostic who has dyslexia?

A person who stays up at night wondering if there is a dog.

I couldn't help it. Sometimes I have got to open with a joke.

If asked to name four things associated with sleep difficulties, how many do you think you could come up with in one minute? Five? Or closer to fifty?

Webster's defines insomnia as "prolonged and usually abnormal inability to obtain adequate sleep." One in three Americans, 90 million people, have trouble sleeping. (Sorry, I don't have international stats.) The average adult is chronically sleepy, resulting in decreased work productivity and increased automobile accidents.

Rather than delving into maladies such as chronic fatigue syndrome or apnea, I am focusing on practical ways to encourage sleep.

First Things First: The Mattress

This idea seemed obvious to me after learning the hard way: Check the mattress. It sounds so simple, but investing in the right mattress can make a huge difference in sleeping ability! Because we spend so much time sleeping, our mattresses should be right for us.

A mattress should conform to the curve in the low back. To check whether your mattress is too firm, too soft, or just right, lie on your bed for a couple of minutes, giving the mattress time to adjust to your body weight. Then test two areas - the one supporting your low back and the one under your neck. Slide your hand under your back. Your hand should just fit between your body and the bed.

If you have extra space there, the mattress is too firm for you. If you cannot get your hand in that space, the mattress is too soft for you. You can repeat this test under your neck. My bed used to be absolutely the best. It occurred to me that that was ten years ago. Buying a new mattress and box springs set this year helped lessen some of my sleeping problems. Rotating the mattress every few months helps it wear evenly.

However, because of body weight, the mattress is an individual matter. A mattress may pass the "hand test" for a 100-pound person yet be the wrong mattress for a 170-pound person. Some mattresses now better accommodate two sleepers, providing varied firmness for each half of the mattress.

When buying a mattress, don't be too embarrassed to use this test in the store. Seriously.

Next Week:

Strategies to reduce stress before sleep.

What do you use to help yourself fall asleep? Got any hints or strategies to share? If so, e-mail me at

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

Issue # 5
Tuesday, Dec. 2, 1997



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. Here's some information on this disease and how we can prevent it.

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.

Part 3 of 4 - - insights into diagnosis, and basic management techniques.

Part 4 of 4 - - new medical treatments to stop osteoporosis, and safety in the home of osteoporosis sufferers.

Next Week:

Strategies to reduce stress before sleep.

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

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