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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...

In women, however, the process of loss is accelerated further, thanks to the dramatic drop in estrogen that occurs at the time of menopausemenopause. What's the link?

"Estrogen is what is known as a 'resorptive.' It actually helps slow bone loss from occurring," says Goldstein.

Unfortunately, when levels plummet -- as they do during menopause -- bone loss speeds up, leaving many women at high risk for osteoporosis.

For awhile, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) came to the rescue. In fact, it worked so well that in addition to recommending it for hot flasheshot flashes and mood swings, many doctors regularly prescribed estrogen for its bone-protecting qualities.

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 cancer.

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.

Getting Treated

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.

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