ACCORDING TO the National Osteoporosis Foundation, about 10 million Americans have osteoporosis, and another 34 million are estimated to have low bone density, placing them at increased odds for the disease.
In Philadelphia, a 2002 report estimated that more than 141,800 women in the city have osteoporosis. Are you at risk?
Jeanne Crowe, 56, a nun with a doctorate in pharmacology who, among other things, lectures on food-medication interaction at Immaculata University, knows all too well the challenges of living with osteoporosis. As a naturally thin, small-framed white woman, Crowe could be a poster child for osteoporosis.
"My mother has severe osteoporosis, and my grandmother, though she lived till the age of 95, was bent over and suffered a broken pelvis and broke both hips before she died," said Crowe.
To make matters worse, Crowe was stricken with rheumatoid arthritis in her late 30s and was treated with the chemotherapy drug methotreate, which caused medically induced early menopause.
"I've had two broken ankles, a broken wrist, and my height has reduced from 5 feet 7 inches, to 5 feet 3/4 inches," she recalled recently.
Undoubtedly, health and hereditary cards are clearly stacked against her. But the resilient Crowe doesn't let her debilitating rheumatoid arthritis or osteoporosis dampen her spirit.
She says these conditions taught her to be more compassionate. And she maintains an active lifestyle, enjoying bowling, walking and bicycling.
She is currently training for the local "Team Steve" American Cancer Society Bike-a-thon, a 21- mile race (details at www.acsbike.org).
"My 9-year-old nephew, Steve Crowe, lost his battle with leukemia in 2005, and I will do all 21 miles even if I have to crawl over the finish line," Crowe vowed.
When it comes to osteoporosis, genetics may load the gun, but you don't have to pull the trigger. The bottom line is that we need to get better educated about osteoporosis - and start by following experts' advice.
Here's some from health and fitness expert and best-selling author and athlete Dr. Pamela Peeke:
"In addition to basic lifestyle changes, women need to get bone smart - strength-train, incorporate calcium and vitamin D into your diet and find the medication that works for you."
To see where you stand, take an online osteoporosis assessment at www.strongtothebone.com.
And it isn't just postmenopausal women who are at risk.
"Anorexic, bulimic and amenorrheaic female athletes are also at increased risk for osteoporosis," warned Dr. Donald Miller, chief of rheumatology at Main Line Health Systems.
Because there are no obvious symptoms for osteoporosis, all women need to be proactive about managing their potential risk for this silent disease. Here's some help to analyze your risk. A "yes" answer to most of the questions below means you should confer with your doctor. You may need a bone density test.
_ Do you have a family history of osteoporosis?
_ Do you smoke cigarettes?
_ Do you avoid strength training?
_ Do you consume more than one drink a day?
_ Do you drink excessive amounts of coffee?
_ Do you have light hair and eyes?
_ Are you white or Asian?
_ Do you have a small frame or thin bones?
_ Are you postmenopausal or over the age of 50?
_ Do you have an eating disorder or no menstrual cycle?
_ Do you take medications for rheumatoid arthritis? *
Kimberly Garrison is a certified personal trainer and owner of One on One Ultimate Fitness in Philadelphia (www.1on1ultimatefitness.com).
E-mail her at