Posts Tagged ‘osteoporosis’

Bone Scams

July 19, 2012

People are getting all steamed up over Health Care. What we really need to get steamed up about is Health Maintenance! We’re bombarded with magic pill adds for everything imaginable and everything those ads can help us to imagine about ourselves.

 Our bodies are the consummate recyclers of all time. Old cells are continually replaced by new and more resilient cells. We see skin cells flaking off our arms and legs but may be less aware of bones being renewed by another process.

 Those who resisted hopping on the estrogen replacement program for women, were spared an increased incidence in breast cancer, heart disease, and stroke, while research studies were being logged. I remember being rudely dismissed from a gynecologist’s office because I questioned the efficacy of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and refused his prescription for “every woman over 50!”

 Similar tactics are used to deal with osteoporosis. The one thing still missing is education about exactly what those drugs are designed to do and why we might want to question using them. Sally Field, poster gal for Boniva, gives a great example of current empty pharmaceutical hype that does nothing to educate people about what’s really going on besides the sale of an expensive drug. Here’s a closer look at how bones are formed and maintained.

 Two types of bone cells continually remodel our bones as we grow. Osteoclasts enlarge the diameter of bone cavities by eating away at the dense white fibrous membrane (periostium) that covers bone except at the joints, where cartilage forms the covering.

Osteoblasts form and repair bones, they fill in the spaces that have been eaten away with new cells that enlarge and reshape our bones to handle current activities. Old cells are disposed of in a process called resorption. Osteoporosis drugs prevent resorption of old bone cells. Patients taking bisphosphonates (osteoporosis drugs) are forming very little new bone and some are reportedly not making any new bone.

 As we get older, our bodies have less need to reshape bones. Boniva, Fosamax, Actonel, and other drugs that prevent bone resorption, end up leaving people who take the drugs with an overabundance of old bone cells, ripe for fracture. Research logs report increased incidence of spontaneous fractures of the femur (thigh bone) in people who take these drugs for more than five years. ‘Spontaneous’ just means that the fracture isn’t caused by a fall or a blow; the bone just disintegrates and needs a steel rod placed in it for repair. Other logs document the incidence of osteonecrosis of the jaw (dead jaw bone). Some dentists refuse to work on patients taking bisphosphonates.

 When we know the risks involved, we can then decide, based on what we understand, whether we want to be part of an experiment using these or any drugs.

 We also need to know what’s going on with our bones. Just being over 50 doesn’t automatically mean anything at a time when we are over-stimulated with health advice. Heel scans don’t tell us much about the rest of our bones. Even if we have a full bone scan X-ray and have osteopenia (mild bone thinning) in places and osteoporosis (advanced bone thinning) in places, there are options beyond drugs available to us. We need to know what we are dealing with.

 So- what can be done? Are we simply between a rock and a hard place when we age? No! At least, not if we’re willing to do a few things to help ourselves instead of looking for a ‘magic’ pill. However, these options won’t cost much and certainly won’t raise the Health Care tab politicians try to swing voters with. Insurance companies do an excellent job of convincing many Americans that we’re all going to get hopelessly sick and need drugs. 

Here are 3 suggestions for starters:

#1 Exercise. To keep each other well, we can begin by giving thanks for all the free supports on hand. Stairs are a tremendous asset for most of us. If you have to climb a set of stairs to get into your house, and another to get to the bathroom or bedroom, consider yourself lucky! And give thanks every time you forget something and have to go back over the stairs extra times. You’re building bone mass! At work, take the stairs instead of  the elevator wherever possible and notice how it builds your lung capacity, bringing fresh oxygen to help all your cells breathe in what they need.

 When you shop, park away from the stores so that you have a good walk to and from the car. Every step you take pumps more oxygen into your body and helps your arteries bring nourishment to your cells and your veins to ship out spent energy. Any other activities, such as hiking, yoga, tai chi, swimming, fly-fishing, biking, walking, or gym workouts, are a treat that keeps circulation energizing, recycling and restoring your body.

 If you need inspiration, watch what many returning veterans learn to do about missing limbs. They band together to keep up morale and achieve their goals. As soon as they master their prostheses, they get moving. They walk, run, compete, and keep their bodies energized and well as they get on with their lives. Or check out wheel chair bound folks who choose to strengthen their arms and give their bodies a regular workout so that they can maintain their independence, drive cars, raise families, and continue their careers in robust health.

 #2 Eat a Healthy Diet, including plenty of Calcium and Vitamin D. Right now, we have an abundance of fresh, local, mineral rich greens and vegetables at Farmer’s Markets and produce stands. Blueberries are plentiful this year, both wild and in Pick-Your Own orchards. 

#3 Drink Water: drink half your body weight in ounces of tap water. (Example: 128 lbs= 64 oz. or 8 cups of water). Caution: if legs swell, drink less until they stabilize. If you’re not used to drinking that much, begin to increase gradually. A well hydrated body enables bones to recycle, food to be easily digested, and circulation to keep everything in balance.