Sally Field: An Osteoporosis Story
The actress known for playing strong women tells of her battle against a bone-thinning disease.
Osteoporosis: How It Happens continued...
It has been a few years since it was learned that hormone replacement
therapy might be doing more harm than good. That was when a major government
trial, known as the Women's Health Initiative (WHI), linked the long-term use
of combined estrogen and progestin as menopausal therapy to an increased risk
of heart diseaseheart
disease, as well as strokestroke
and breast cancerbreast
Field says taking HRT helped her bones as well. It was when she stopped,
however, that she says her bone problems really took hold.
"When I completely went off HRT, my bone
densitybone density took a really
big dive and my doctor noticed it," says Field.
Since tests showed she was also low on vitamin D -- necessary to utilize
calcium -- her doctors also recommended vitamin D supplements. While Field was
hopeful they would work, those hopes were soon dashed.
"Eight months later, we tested again -- and the bone mass went down even
more significantly," Field tells WebMD.
It was then that her doctor told her she had developed osteoporosis.
"It was the full-fledged condition. No longer just a risk, it
happened," says Field.
While some might take the news simply as a sign of getting older, Field had
other ideas. Taking a decidedly proactive stance, she was determined to learn
all she could about osteoporosisosteoporosis -- and to do whatever it took to stop
it from affecting her life.
After talking with her doctor she chose to treat her osteoporosis with the
new once-monthly medication Boniva -- a drug that works to slow bone loss, so
the body's natural bone production can pull ahead.
Later, when approached by the makers of Boniva (Roche and GlaxoSmithKline)
to spearhead an awareness campaign about osteoporosis, she jumped at the
opportunity. Roche and GlaxoSmithKline are also WebMD sponsors.
"At first I was nervous. I thought, this is a big pill -- and I
worried something bad would happen," says Field. Indeed, side effects to
Boniva can include stomach upset, muscle pain, even ulcersulcers.
Still, when she weighed her fears against what could happen if she didn't
take charge, she says the medicine won.
People at Risk
Today Field says she's happy and relieved to be well on her way back to good
bone health. But she also says this is not a journey she wants to take
successfully isn't just about looking good, it's about having a good solid
feeling about your health and yourself as a healthy person," says Field,
who is asking women to take action by talking to their doctors and joining her
in a commitment to better bone health.
According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF) Field's audience
will be vast: Some 10 million women are already diagnosed with osteoporosis,
with another 34 million at risk. Though men can develop this condition, they
account for less than 20% of diagnosed cases.
In addition to gender, NOF says other risk factors include advancing age,
heredity, having a small, thin, frame, low estrogen levels, and a lifetime of
low calcium and vitamin D intake. Heavy use of alcohol and cigarettes, alone or
in combination with an inactive lifestyle, also play a role.