My battle with bone loss

Stop bone loss before it starts

My battle with bone loss

Orange County woman shares her story

By Patricia Palmer Hurd


In 2004, Barbara of Orange County was told by her doctor that she was in the early stages of osteoporosis. Now in her 50s, Barbara learned that her bones had been losing density over the years because she had several risk factors for this condition: she lacked adequate calcium in her diet earlier in her life, she was petite, and she had been sedentary (she was bedridden and in a wheelchair for two years) in her 30s.

Doctors believe having any of these factors puts one at risk for osteoporosis. For Barbara, having several risk factors put her at even greater risk.

“My doctor felt it would be good to have a baseline exam done to measure my bone density in the future,” says Barbara.

She was instructed by her doctor to have a DEXA bone density test, a quick, non-invasive scan of her bones. “You lie on a padded table much like an x-ray table,” she explains. “Pictures are taken while you lie back and relax. An overhead arm which houses the camera travels over your body to take the reading. The entire test only takes 10-15 minutes and it’s completely painless.”

The test revealed some disturbing news. “We were both surprised when the test revealed I was osteopenic, my bone mineral density score was a -2.2, only 3 points away from being osteoporosis.”

Osteopenia is a condition in which bone mineral density (BMD) is lower than normal peak BMD, but not low enough to be classified as osteoporosis. This condition is the precursor to osteoporosis.

This meant Barbara needed to take steps are taken to bulk up her bone density.

“My doctor started me on Actonel, 35 milligrams a week. This is a once-a-week pill that increases the density of my bones,” says Barbara. “She also sent me to physical therapy for eight weeks where I learned weight-bearing exercises and how to lift weights properly to strengthen my bones, posture, and agility. I do these five times a week. I also walk 4 to 5 days a week for 30-45 minutes.

Barbara has increased her calcium intake to 1,500 milligrams a day, in addition to including a variety of calcium-rich foods in her diet. She will have a repeat DEXA scan this year, three years after the baseline exam, to determine if her density has increased.


Patricia Palmer Hurd is a freelance writer in Orange County who specializes in health-related subjects.