I think a lot of women are frightened about the prospect of developing certain diseases like breast cancer or skin cancer. But I haven’t talked to too many women who have expressed concern about getting osteoporosis.
I used to be one of these women. Although I was dealing with all sorts of health issues from my hysterectomy, the idea that I’d someday be diagnosed with osteoporosis was not even a blip on my radar. Then I found out I had osteopenia, and all bets were off.
I can’t speak for everyone, but I think some women might think of osteoporosis as an “old lady” disease, like it’s something that might strike us when we’re in our seventies or eighties. I was diagnosed with osteopenia at forty-three, so I can tell you with all certainty that it’s time to change our way of thinking about this condition and give it the respect it deserves.
Actually, what we really need to respect more than anything is our amazing skeleton. How many of us are guilty of buying calcium tablets, but then forgetting to take them? Or of swearing to start exercising “soon,” but then that day never seems to come?
Since I had my osteopenia scare about five years ago, I’ve become determined to take really good care of my bones. I’ve researched and read up on the topic, and it seems that every reputable article and Web site about osteoporosis has these following suggestions in common:
1. If you smoke, please stop. In addition to all of the other unhealthy side effects linked to smoking, it has also been found to lead to bone deterioration.
2. Take a calcium supplement every day, but also try to eat calcium-rich foods as much as you can. I really believe that our bodies were designed so that we would eat food and absorb the nutrients that we need the most. Of course, dairy products are full of calcium, but so are some fruits and vegetables, nuts, and dried beans.
3. Please get your hormone levels checked every year as part of your annual blood work. As I learned, if your levels are off, then your bones are paying the price. If you’re over forty, please also get an annual bone density exam.
4. Do weight-bearing exercises on a regular basis. This literally means exercises that put a modest stress on your bones. Do you like to run, walk, or dance? Then by all means, do so! Your hip bones will thank you for it. And please don’t forget your upper body—your arms need to work out, too. Exercises like tennis can be very helpful, as can golf and strength training.
As a population, we’re living a lot longer than we used to. As a result, we have to take preventative care of our bodies in ways our ancestors never dreamed of. When I looked into the statistics on older people and hip fractures, I was horrified—the percentage of people who break their hips and then die is staggering. I can’t help but think that many of these poor souls had hips that were weakened by osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis is not just an elderly woman’s disease. It can strike young people too, and men as well. It’s a condition that all of us need to take seriously and take steps to prevent.
What are you doing to prevent osteoporosis? Can you suggest an exercise or calcium-rich food that you enjoy? I look forward to hearing from you!
By Michelle King Robson, founder of EmpowHer.com