Too Young For Osteoporosis?

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

I am a vegan and have been fully vegan for 3 years now. I've been active and busy and taking my B-12 and other supplements pretty religiously. OK, I stopped the multivitamins and calcium for a few months after reading that most supplements are unnecessary. I don't recall where I heard or read this now, but a couple of friends stumbled on it, too, and did what I did.

Now, the doctors don't think I could have suffered the effects of stopping supplements in such a brief time, and I've been assured that only 3 years as a vegan could not cause it, but I have sustained a spontaneous fracture of my femur at the knee. The femur is the long thigh bone, the longest, strongest bone in the body! The gist of it is that this fracture is a sign of osteoporosis. My grandmother had it, my mother had it, and now apparently I have it. I am just 60 years old, off hormone replacement for several years now. 60 feels too young!

I'm right in the midst of getting the right attention for this. The orthopedist said to use a cane and "walk as little as possible and stand as little as possible." I live and work in New York City, and I travel to and from the office by subway. There are stairs I must use to go into the subway and come back out again. I live in a 2-story apartment that is located on the third and fourth floor of my apartment building. We have no elevator. When I'm not working I am in a rural area in a 2-story townhouse where until now, walking and hiking in nature and using the gym were big pluses. Not right now.

I asked my primary physician for his advice and he said: 1) get another bone density test; 2) see another orthopedist for a second opinion; and 3) start Boniva. While I awaited his referrals and prescription, and it took a reminder call and nearly a month to get them from him, I told my GYN and she was great. She also urged another opinion and suggested I see a local rheumatologist who specializes in osteoporosis. I have an appointment with him in two days. I finally got the script but have decided not to fill it until I see the specialist. My GYN assured me that the vast majority of women on this type of medication experience no serious side effects and that those who do have either been taking chemotherapy simultaneously or have been on it for longer than five years, so they stop at five years and the benefit usually continues for up to 10 more years.

I tried to get the new bone density and found out that my insurance company only pays for them every 2 years, so I'm not eligible until July. They may allow it if my doctor appeals a denial, but I might be on the hook for $350. I declined to book it for now.

Morals of this story? If you're over 50 (whether you are vegan, vegetarian or omnivore), get your bone density tests, take your calcium and Vitamin D, and if you sustain an unexplained fracture, demand to be evaluated for osteoporosis. And don't assume the medical people treating you are staying on top of everything. Nowadays many are overworked and not as responsive as we've come to expect. We have to be ready to manage our own care or demand help when we need it.

No, we aren't necessarily too young!

Here's a link to remind us how to eat for bone health: nutritionresearchcenter.
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    Of all places, I recently learned from a pedorthist (person who works to correct bio-mechanical problems with a person's feet!!) that lack of strength training contributes more to osteoporosis than eating enough calcium or taking enough calcium supplements! I was quite surprised to hear someone else that knowledgeable.

    He said it's because of the "use it or lose it" principle. If a person is NOT working out and doing strength training, lifting weights, working against resistance, then the body will not produce the calcium it needs from the food it gets. The "excess calcium" from foods and supplements that are not being used to rebuild bone and muscle due to the strength training just end up being excreted or else clogging up the arteries, blocking the nerve endings etc. etc. Really surprised me when he said that.

    I got to looking around and read other places where that is true - including an article here on SparkPeople!


    I just saw the link to your blog from someone on my friend feed, so I don't know if you are already doing strength training? I would think that Yoga might fulfill this need too (since you mentioned Namaste!) but I don't know... hope this article helps?! And it is scary to hear of people getting osteoporosis at a younger age.


    2243 days ago
    emoticon emoticon

    I have osteopenia and took Actonel for many years, but after reading about long term effects, I quit last spring when I went vegan. I do take Vit. D since my levels were extremely low a year prior to my diet change and I take Dr.Fuhrman's muti vitamin for vegans. I hope you are able to get your bone density test and some other help. I would think inactivity would be detrimental to your bone density as much as normal. I hope you get some answers and good advice that works for you.
    2292 days ago
  • DENISE223
    Dear Sunny:

    I am so sorry to hear about this! emoticon

    I'm glad that you'll be seeing a rheumatologist and hope that he will be of some help. At what ages were your mother and grandmother diagnosed?

    About 1 year ago, my primary told me to decrease my calcium supplements to 500 mg/day - I was taking 1,000 mg. She said there was a study showing an increase in heart attacks in women taking too much Calcium and that I should get most of it through food.
    Luckily, there's an abundance of calcium rich foods in a vegan diet:
    I take 600 mg of magnesium, vitamin D and of course, continue to take my B12 every morning.

    Given that you have a diagnosis, I sincerely hope that your primary will appeal the denial so your insurance will pay for another bone density study.

    We all need to be on top of things where our health is concerned and I'm glad that you are. I will keep you in my prayers, Sunny.

    Peace & love to you and yours,


    2292 days ago
  • DS9KIE
    sorry your going through this

    I'm glad your getting a second opinion. Are they telling you not to walk as a precaution or are you in pain?

    Your just to young for this. So hope you can get it all figured out.
    2293 days ago
  • PATTK1220
    Take care, Sunny! I hope you get some new ways to deal with it when you get your second opinions. I have been lax about calcium and Vitamin D myself. I am taking your experience to heart and starting my supplements again today.
    2293 days ago
  • LADYDI2049
    Hi Sunny, gosh I'm sorry to hear of this diagnosis, but it sounds like it my be caused by hereditary factors. I hope you aren't having a lot of pain with it. It's great that you are bing proactive and also getting a second opinion. You are so right about being diligent about your health care.

    I was going through my email contact list a little while ago and when I came to your name I made a little mental note that after lunch I would send you and email to see how you were doing since we hadn't chatted in awhile. So I had lunch and when I got on the computer the notice was there from SP notifying me of you post. I love when things like this happen. I don't believe in coincidence, it is something more than that and I love it.

    Love ya
    emoticon emoticon
    2293 days ago
    So sorry to hear that Sunny! Hope they can do something!
    Take care. Sending prayers and healing vibes,
    Hugs Ellen
    2293 days ago
    WOW! thank you for sharing your story. At my last check up my vitamin D was low so my doctor recommended me taking a D, Calcium, Magnesium supplement. I'm glad I listened. Thanks to your story I'll be a bit more diligent with taking this for sure. I will say prayers for you and this situation. emoticon
    2293 days ago
    I am so sorry that you are having to go through this. I also live in a city and know what you are talking about regarding subways, and stairways, etc.

    Just a few years ago, I had a bone density test that my doctor and OB/Gyn recommended so that I would have a baseline test for later. I was reluctant to get the test done, but what you blogged made me glad that I got the test. I also take Vitamin D (2,000-4,000) and have the levels checked regularly. (I read some time back that people who consumed the most dairy had the highest rates of osteoporosis but will make double sure I have enough calcium through soymilk, kale, etc.)

    Very glad you have been proactive in following up and finding out what is best for you. So true that we need to be our own advocates and best friends when it comes to health.

    Thank you for sharing your story, and I am hoping that everything works out well for you. Sending healing thoughts your way.
    emoticon emoticon
    2293 days ago
    I'm 60 and have been diagosed with Osteopenia - the precurser to Osteoporosis. I really think it's good for you to get a 2nd opinion and do some research on Boniva before you start taking it. Get back on a good calcium and vitamin D. I agree, 60 is WAY too young.
    2293 days ago
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