Having gone through four full-term pregnancies, followed by numerous early perimenopausae-related issues over the years, I’ve learned to listen to what my body is trying to tell me — because there’s no use in arguing, it will shut me down.
Now that I’m in my 50s, I’ve also become accustomed to hearing terms like “bone health” and “osteoporosis” tossed around during yearly physicals. I wasn’t really concerned about their effects, at this stage in my life, until the day my mom was rushed to the hospital after a bad fall. I learned later that her fall happened because the bone in her leg had shattered right from under her.
My mother was in her early 70s (at the time) and had suffered joint, leg and back issues her entire life. She’d had total replacement surgery performed on both knees, a hip, and her shoulder (twice, same shoulder). It got to the point where, rather than going through her medical history with each new medical team, it was easier for her to point out the body parts that were original.
Despite witnessing all of her hospitalizations, nothing could have prepared me for this one. There was my mom lying on a gurney, with one leg clearly much shorter than the other. Even after birthing four kids, I still became nauseous at the sight of blood and had to talk myself out of throwing up.
The orthopedic surgeon was able to insert a steel rod and literally piece my mom’s leg back together, but there wasn’t much bone left and it would remain 2 inches shorter than the other — it took my mom 18 months to recover and learn how to walk again.
During my mom’s rehab, I learned that she would need regular bone density exams to help predict her chances of fractures in the future. Again, I prepared myself for the worst, expecting another round of complicated procedures and, honestly, it all sounded a little scary. The exam took about 15 minutes, it was totally painless, and she didn’t even have to undress. I immediately made an appointment for myself.
Today is World Menopause Day and the theme for 2021 is Bone Health. According to the International Menopause Society, osteoporosis causes more than 8.9 million fractures annually worldwide. There are no signs or symptoms of Osteoporosis; you might not know you have the disease until you break a bone. So, be sure to talk to your doctor about the importance of getting your bone density exam scheduled — especially if you’re 50 and older, taking medication for Osteoporosis, or going through menopause.
My mom passed away last year, but I feel it safe to say that she would approve of my sharing her story, because prevention of Osteoporosis-related fractures is the main reason why we should care about bone health.