Skip to content

Osteoporosis Health Center

Font Size
A
A
A

Sally Field: An Osteoporosis Story

The actress known for playing strong women tells of her battle against a bone-thinning disease.

WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Actress Sally Field always thought of herself as a strong woman -- an image often reflected in her award-winning movie roles. Dazzling us with Academy Award performances in films like Norma Rae and Places in the Heart, she became a signature actress for an emerging generation of equally strong women.

Indeed, even from her early days of TV stardom in comedies like Gidget and The Flying Nun, and later when tickling our funny bone in films like Steel Magnolia, she never failed to personify the baby boom generation at its best.

Recommended Related to Osteoporosis

Bone Density Scan

The National Osteoporosis Foundation estimates that 10 million people in the U.S. have osteoporosis and nearly 34 million more have osteopenia, which puts them at greater risk for osteoporosis. Bone mineral density (BMD) is related to bone strength. BMD testing is used to diagnose osteoporosis. BMD is measured with a test called a DXA scan. By measuring BMD, doctors can predict the risk of having a bone fracture. A bone density scan, or test, should not be confused with a...

Read the Bone Density Scan article > >

But recently, something happened that threatened to weaken Field's resolve, not to mention her hopes for what she calls "a great third act."

The 'Silent' Disease

Just shy of her 60th birthday, Field was diagnosed with osteoporosisosteoporosis -- a serious bone-thinning disorder that dramatically affects the risk of bone fractures. It is often referred to as the 'silent disease' because you can have no symptoms until you experience a fracture.

"I always knew I fit the risk profile. I was thin, small boned, Caucasian, and heading towards age 60. But I was amazed at how quickly a woman could go from being at risk to having full-fledged osteoporosis," says the still-petite brunette.

On the outside this vibrant actress remained an active sports enthusiast -- "hiking, biking, and doing extreme yoga on a regular basis," she says. But inside, a bone scan showed her hips and spine had started thinning.

"My bones appeared to be getting steadily thinner without any signs or symptoms I could see or feel," Field tells WebMD.

Osteoporosis: How It Happens

According to Steve Goldstein, MD, when we are young the process of bone building outpaces that of bone loss, which is why our skeleton remains healthy and strong. Bone mass peaks in early adulthood. As we age, however, he says the process begins to reverse.

"The older you get the more bone loss speeds up and bone building slows down," says Goldstein, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at NYU Medical Center in New York City. So, the older we get, he says, the thinner our bones will be.

1 | 2 | 3 | 4

Today on WebMD

Women working out and walking with weights
Reduce bone loss and build stronger muscles.
Chinese cabbage
Calcium-rich foods to add to your diet.
 
woman stretching
Get the facts on osteoporosis.
Porous bone
Causes, symptoms, risk factors, and treatment.
 
senior woman
Article
Woman holding plate of brocolli
Article
 
wrist xray
Quiz
Superfood for Bones
Slideshow
 
mature woman
Article
sunlight in hands
Article
 
man and woman in front of xray
Quiz
woman with dumbbells
Article