Here’s an image for you: Your spine is like a stack of tuna cans with English muffins in between.
Isn’t that great? It’s courtesy of a fantastic lecture yesterday in my Nutrition and Chronic Disease class by Andrew Shields, MD, of the University of Washington Medical Center. (I do so love going to school at a big research university!)
Of course, his highly visual analogy was part of a discussion of the vertebral fractures that are often the first sign of osteoporsis. Not that anyone (and by anyone, I mostly mean women) notices these fractures. At least not until they have the so-called dowager’s hump. And that’s bad, because by that point you’ve become several inches shorter, your lower rib cage is practially on top of your pelvis, your lungs are compressed and your organs have shifted due to being so crowded, which can make you constipated on top of it all.
No, more often than not, when women experience one of these fractures, they chalk it up to simple back pain. (Dr. Shields called them “clinically silent.”) They won’t know for sure until they have osteoporosis until they break a wrist, or a hip. That’s when things get really bad.
Yes, this is serious. To put it in perspective, as many women die of osteoporosis as die of breast cancer. Most of the time, when a woman experiences an osteoporosis-related fracture, she receives no treatment for the osteoporosis itself.
OK, now that I have you worried and asking “What can I do to befriend my bones?” I’m going to leave you hanging until tomorrow, when I’ll fill you in on what I’ve learned about what you can and can’t achieve with nutrition, exercise and other avenues of attack.