Dem Bones

If you are a baby boomer woman–and I hope you are, because this site has been created for you–you are well aware of the issues regarding bone density as we get older.

About five years ago, I had my first bone-density test. The results revealed osteopenia in my spine, although my hips were fine. The doctor I was seeing at the time prescribed Boniva, endorsed by Sally Field. After reading about the drug, I decided that it didn’t sound like something I wanted to take. It’s tough on the esophagus, the stomach, and the bones of the jaw…and I’m simply not a big fan of taking meds in the first place.

I decided that I would continue taking calcium supplements and boost my time in the gym. If my bones continued to weaken, I would agree to go on medication. Since bone-density tests are usually recommended once every two years, that’s how long I gave myself to try to change things on my own.

My regimen was as follows:

• 1000-1500 mg of food-based calcium every day
• Two weight-training sessions with a personal trainer per week
• Two spin classes per week
• Short walks (hills included) three to five times a week

In 2008, I had my second test. It indicated that everything was within acceptable ranges and I no longer fell into the osteopenia category. Not only didn’t my bones get any worse, they became stronger.

Since then, I added one more spin class to my workout routine. I’m not doing quite as much walking as I used to do, but I figure five days a week in the gym is pretty darn good.

Last week, I had a third test, and lo and behold–my bone density has increased even more. I know it seems weird to get excited about improving my bone mass, but this news delights me. This is the only body I have, and I plan to keep it in the best possible shape for as long as I can. If I can manage to do that without taking medication, better still.

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More about Bones and Meds

Since my post on osteopenia received several hits, I thought it might be prudent to add some more information. Please note that I do not claim to have any legitimate medical knowledge—I’m simply reporting my own experiences.

Since my initial diagnosis, I have talked to several professionals in the healthcare field:

•    An orthopedist said (off the record) that he would rather see me do regular weight-bearing exercise than take medication.

•    An endodontist said that women who take the drugs recommended for osteoporosis and osteopenia are more likely to develop osteonecrosis of the jaw (ONJ). ONJ is a disfiguring and disabling condition where the bones of the jaw suffer literal bone death through infection and rotting that can result from exposure to bisphosphonates found in these meds.

•    The tech who performed my bone scan explained that bones continue to grow throughout one’s lifetime. The old bone cells slough off and new bone cells grow in to replace them. (To keep this process running smoothly, the body requires calcium and vitamin D.) Some of the meds on the market do nothing more than keep the sloughed-off bone from breaking away, making the bones appear, on a scan, to be stronger than they really are.

If nothing else, all of this information is worthy of further inspection.

Building Stronger Bones—It’s Not Just for Kids Anymore

Two years ago, I had my first bone-density test. The results revealed osteopenia in my spine, although my hips were fine. The doctor I was seeing at the time prescribed Boniva, made popular by the ever-bubbly and still-adorable Sally Field. After reading about the drug, I decided that it didn’t sound like something I wanted to take. It’s tough on the esophagus and the stomach, and well…it’s a drug, and I’m just not a big fan of popping pills unless they can promise some sort of life-altering effect.

So I made a deal with myself that I would continue taking calcium supplements and would also boost my time in the gym. If my bones continued to weaken, I would capitulate and agree to go on medication. Since bone-density tests are usually recommended once every two years, that’s how long I gave myself to try to change things on my own.

My regimen was, and still is, as follows:

• 1000-1500 mg of food-based calcium every day
• Two weight-training sessions with a personal trainer per week
• Two spin classes per week
• Short walks (hills included) three to five times a week

Two weeks ago, I had my second test. My doctor called today to report that the results were excellent—no sign of bone loss or osteopenia, everything within acceptable ranges.

“But, wait,” I said. “I was diagnosed with osteopenia two years ago.”

“You may have had it then, but you don’t have it now,” came his reply.

I hung up. Incredulous. Not only didn’t my bones get any worse, they became stronger. It would appear that I actually reversed the problem.

I’m not saying that my methods are right for everyone. My point is simply that I’m thrilled to have taken a stand on how I want to approach this area of my health—and it worked like a charm.