Good Bones

by Shea Bell
good bones need calcium and weight baring excercise

No point in looking back or regretting that she didn’t get the help she needed much sooner. It happens in a medical system that is tapped out and only able to do triage.  Her condition simply fell through the cracks while she was treated for her breaks and sent “out to the community” where the family Dr. has 10 minutes.

Mom’s visit to the ER this past winter revealed compression fractures to her L1 and L2 vertebrae, which occurred when she strained trying to tie up her shoes. An x-ray also showed a compound fracture to her L3 from three years previous. I guess her broken femur was more painful because it was not remarked on by the doctor at the time.

In the ER they gave her the prescribed senior hip x-ray, which showed nothing, then diagnosed a sprain.  From the extent of her pain I knew there was more going on. The doctor sighed, looked straight into my unblinking eyes, and ordered another x-ray, this time of her back. 

When the back x-ray showed compression fractures, the ER doctor referred us to a specialist. The Internist was dismayed that with Mom`s fracture history she never had a bone density scan, but the scan was no longer necessary since solid history told the story, and it would not change treatment.

Next, off to the Healthy Bone Clinic where Mom was seen by a physio, a dietitian and then an Osteoporosis specialist. Aside from their expertise, the overriding message from each of them was that everyone deserves to live their best life. I was grateful they saw her as a person.

The experience was both educational and empowering, since I was able to join the discussion. I learned about a disease I’d never had cause to consider or be curious about.

These are my main takeaways:

  • Osteoporosis is hereditary
  • It can occur as the result of poor diet, and that the best way to receive beneficial calcium is through diet, not supplementation.
  • Weight bearing exercise is essential in prevention and management
  • A bone density scan should be done at 65 (70 for men) , but sooner if there is a hereditary link or any other medical reason to investigate earlier.
  • Today no certain cause of osteoporosis has been identified.

The internet is loaded with information about osteoporosis and osteopenia, but I am happy to direct you to a site I found very helpful – Osteoporosis Canada.  Scroll to the bottom of the home page for useful links.

I started with the Calcium Calculator .  The Calculator offers a list of calcium rich foods and how much calcium each contains, so it’s easy to see if your daily food habits meet the goal (for woman over 50 – 1200 mg a day). The list showed me which foods contain calcium, some I would never have imagined, like kiwi and peaches. I was pleasantly surprised that with just a bit of tweaking, my diet is pretty good.

But what I came away with is an awareness that I need to add in weight bearing exercise.  That means while swimming might be my favorite activity and excellent for overall fitness, it does not target bone health.  Walking is one of the best ways, as well as lifting weights.  A visit to the Osteoporosis Canada website will provide some great ideas for exercise, complete with videos.

So what next?  We sorted out Mom within the constraints of her age and fragile state.  Knowledge and awareness were key to alleviating some stress, and she is now on pretty strong supplementation for her advanced condition. She also made adjustments to daily activities to mitigate further injuries, simple things like getting help with her shoes in the morning and at bedtime.

I decided to take preventative action for myself.  Off I went for my bone density scan, which is a simple, quick and painless procedure. The outcome – a very small amount of bone density loss for my height, weight and age. The results made it clear I need to tweak my activities.

I bought a step counter to measure how many steps I take in a day, and now use it to correct under activity. At the end of a writing day my steps are shockingly low so I can top them up with a walk. Step away from the screen! I’m all about the facts now, no more guessing or denial. This includes stepping on the scale!

Finally, I learned the critical role posture plays in our overall health and well-being. Poor posture affects our core strength, as I found out, and contributes to falls.  We slump over the keyboard and the steering wheel. We slump because we’re tired at the end of a full day. Whatever our daily activities are, slumping can easily worm in and become a habit. As with changing any bad habit, awareness is the starting point.

When I was a young girl and growing like I would never stop, Mom used to slap me between the shoulder blades to remind me to stand up straight. Even though I was so annoyed, she persisted, and by the time I became an adult, I was grateful.

I’m passing this practice on with my hard-working daughter, who in her career can spend an entire day at the keyboard. Sometimes I notice her shoulders have climbed up to her ears, and become just as irritating and relentless as her Grandma was with me.

We may be born with good bones, but it is not a given that healthy bone density will remain throughout our lives. The good news is it can be measured, and steps taken to create a healthy and strong body, especially with early awareness.

I’ve learned that having good bones does not guarantee good bone density. Science is there to provide the evidence, but the rest is up to us.

Now go eat your broccoli and take a walk!

Blessings everyone.

Please scroll down to comment. I would love to hear from you.

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Karen August 15, 2019 - 5:19 pm

Thanks for sharing your Mom’s story. I am inspired to take a look at my diet and activity so that I can preserve my own good bones. Blessings to you and your Mom.

Shea Bell August 21, 2019 - 1:28 pm

Hi Karen, Glad you found my experience inspiring. Doing research is so gratifying!

Verna Bell August 21, 2019 - 4:01 pm

Contains information everybody should be reading and taking to heart.

Shea Bell August 21, 2019 - 4:03 pm

Thanks Verna. Hoping it will inspire folks.

Marcus August 22, 2019 - 10:58 am

What a great post! Loved every minute of it

Shea Bell August 22, 2019 - 6:40 pm

Hi Marcus, Thanks for reading and glad you enjoyed it.

To Salt or Not to Salt - that is the question • Four Figs September 13, 2019 - 10:33 am

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