Guess Who's 60 -- and Sexy?
Bone Thinning Is Preventable continued...
Although nearly 40% of women in their 60s have some degree of
bone loss, the condition often goes unrecognized because there are no symptoms
until the disease progresses to the point where fractures occur. A bone density
test is the most effective method of determining whether someone has lost bone
"I didn't know about the test until one of my friends told
me about it," Ann-Margret says. "I had my first test last November and
I had another one two weeks ago. I'm lucky. I found out that my bones are still
healthy and that I don't have osteoporosis."
Rheumatologist William Sunshine, MD, medical spokesperson for
the campaign, says the education effort hopes to raise awareness about bone
density testing among women at risk and their doctors. He says too few
physicians treating menopausal and postmenopausal women discuss osteoporosis
with their patients. Sunshine is in private practice in Boca Raton, Fla.
"One problem is that we are dealing with an asymptomatic
illness," he tells WebMD. "People visit their doctors with all kinds of
complaints, but a patient isn't likely to come in and complain about
osteoporosis. Unfortunately, when you look at a patient there is no clue to
tell us if she has osteoporosis unless she already has a fracture. At that
point, you are looking at the end result of the disease."
Bones are built during childhood and the teen years, and bone
density is generally maintained during the 20s, 30s, and 40s. Once a woman
reaches menopause, however, bone mass begins to decrease. The loss can be very
rapid, Sunshine says.
"The key is to build as much bone as you can during your
formative years and into your postmenopausal years to protect against bone loss
later on," Sunshine says. "It is the equivalent of putting money into a
retirement account. When you are young you should deposit as much as you can so
that when you are retired and you need to withdraw from the account, there is
plenty to work with."
Bone density testing is critical, Sunshine says, because drugs
are now available that not only help prevent osteoporosis, but reverse bone
A woman can lose up to 20% of her bone mass in the 5-7 years
following menopause, but it does not have to happen. The best ways to prevent
- eating a balanced diet rich in calcium and vitamin D;
- taking calcium supplements;
- exercising regularly, emphasizing weight-bearing exercises;
- not smoking and limiting alcohol consumption;
- having a bone density test; and
- taking medication when needed.
To stay in shape and prevent bone loss, Ann-Margret exercises
three times a week, combining weight work with aerobic exercise on a treadmill.
She also walks with friends for two or three hours every Saturday morning. This
summer she kicked off a tour as star of the musical "The Best Little
Whorehouse in Texas" and says the regular exercise helps give her the
stamina she needs for the kind of hectic schedule that comes along with such a
"I am lucky that I have good genes," she says. "My
father and mother always had great energy and a positive outlook on life. But I
couldn't do what I do if I didn't exercise regularly. Women have to be
aggressive about fitness. Keeping your bone health and muscles is so important
as you age. The best advice I can give is to keep moving and call your doctor
to discuss bone loss."