Skeletal Dance of Osteoporosis

balance pose

A couple weeks ago, a bone density test told me that I have osteoporosis. It’s something that runs in my family but I hadn’t expected I would be dealing with it already. I’m active, I eat well (or so I thought) and my doctor insisted that I had nothing to worry about. But this year I insisted on a bone scan.

My Reaction to Test Results

At the news of the test results, pictures of me bent in half, struggling to walk, immediately popped into my head.

Then I became obsessed with googling for information on osteoporosis.

Then I started thinking about bad stuff that could happen. What if I fell riding my bicycle? What if I fell on the ice?

I’d already been frightened by how much my knees hurt this winter, which has made me worry that my days of walking long distances or on hilly, rough terrain were over.

All in all, these were signs that time was catching up with me. In other words, I’m aging.

hand

What My Doctor Wanted To Do

She wanted to put me on medication. From what I’ve read on osteoporosis meds, they pile calcium onto the surface of your bones, which looks good on a bone scan, but they actually do nothing about your bone density. Instead, they make your bones brittle and can cause deterioration of your jaw bone. Why they attack the jaw, I don’t know, but it sounds bad.

What I Wanted To Do

I turned down the medication.

I’d already decided that my focus this year would be on my health and have been trying to change my eating habits and fitness. Osteoporosis has been a huge motivator to step up my game.

Fitness

The first thing I did was join a health club.

I’ve fought that idea for a while now because of the expense and my past experience with clubs.

I belonged to one twenty-five years ago and hated going. I was self-conscious about my body and my life-long clumsiness and lack of athletic ability. Picture an aerobics class where I am always going in the  wrong direction and swinging my arms off tempo. I’m also an introvert who is intimidated by large, sweaty, muscle-bound groups of people. Then there is the confusion of all the buttons on the tread mills and other equipment, not to mention the complexity of some of the weight machines. Heaven forbid that I should ask someone for help.

But with age comes the willingness to look awkward and stupid and face things that frighten you. Willingness doesn’t mean I’m not self-conscious anymore. It just means I realize that most people are too focused on themselves to notice what I’m doing. And those who are staring in disbelief are not worth caring about. Discomfort won’t kill you. What it will do, if you give in to it, is rob you of doing the things you want to do.

In the weeks I’ve been going to the club, I’ve been to a couple introductory sessions with a trainer and a sampling of classes.  I haven’t improved at all on following aerobic instructors, but so far, joining the club was a good decision.

lifting hand weight

Nutrition

I wanted to see how I was doing with nutrition. From the osteoporosis websites I’d found, there are certain vitamins and minerals that will help build bone density. On Save Our Bones, I learned there are foods that are alkalizing (good for the bones) and foods that are acidic (not good for the bones). On that site, the recommendation is to keep a balance of 80% alkalizing to 20% acidic foods (4 to 1 ratio).

It was too hard to look at food labels and look up foods online, then transfer everything to a spreadsheet so I went looking for an application that would automatically track nutrition. But most applications are geared towards weight loss and only track fat, carbs, and protein.

Nutrition Tracking Tools

The two tools I found that tracked some of the vitamins and minerals that I wanted to pay attention to were:

  • My Food Diary – 7-day free trial then $9 per month; website driven but there is a downloadable, clickable link for your phone
  • My Fitness Pal – free or pay $10 per month or $50 per year for premium; access it with a computer browser or download the app

I tried My Food Diary with the 7-day trial. The interface was user friendly, visual and powerful, and it had smiley-faced encouragements like “You had no desert today!” that made me feel good.

Now I’m using the free version of My Fitness Pal. It does a minimal job at giving you nutritional information, is more difficult to use and less informative. I have a feeling that the premium version has the things that I want.

Maybe tracking food nutrition for a couple months will provide me with enough knowledge that I will no longer need an application.

Summary

When I joined the health club and was asked what I hoped to accomplish, I had a hard time coming up with something. The trainer I spoke with prompted me with examples of goals like lose weight or train for a sport.

These suggestion had measurable results, whereas better bones are invisible (like osteoporosis). And bone building is not a goal that inspires enthusiasm.

I decided to make being able to ride my bike to Duluth my goal. That’s 155 miles one way, or for me, about 50 miles per day. If I camp and carry my gear on my bike, it becomes a bigger challenge than cycling from hotel-to-hotel.

Granted, I could bike to Duluth  in my current condition.  But I want to do it without swearing at every hill (I still might swear at some of them), and I want to be able to wake up on the second day without the feeling that I can barely walk much less complete the rest of the miles.

I’m not as freaked out now about having osteoporosis. I realize that my bones are not going to suddenly disintegrate under my skin. And risks of broken bones are not worth the cost of not doing the things I love to do.

fat bike

 

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Written by Maery Rose