LARRY BREAKS IT TO YOU

Your risk of os­teo­poro­sis is real. Larry Fun­nell is one of the two mil­lion Cana­di­ans af­fected by os­teo­poro­sis. His ex­pe­ri­ence could save your bones and your life.

ZOOMER Magazine - - ZOOM IN VITALITY -

LARRY THOUGHT HE WAS JUST AC­CI­DENT-PRONE

Be­fore be­ing di­ag­nosed at 48, Larry broke bones in his back, arms, ribs and shoul­der blades do­ing sim­ple things like walk­ing or go­ing down stairs. No one thought there was an un­der­ly­ing cause and that he was at risk of fur­ther frac­ture. “Every­body thought I was a klutz. I’d fall and break some­thing and there goes Larry with an­other cast.”

Breaks like these, called fragility frac­tures, wouldn’t oc­cur in peo­ple with healthy bone strength. “From stand­ing height, you shouldn’t be frac­tur­ing just slip­ping and fall­ing,” ex­plains Dr. An­gela Cheung, Found­ing Di­rec­tor of the Uni­ver­sity Health Net­work Os­teo­poro­sis Pro­gram and mem­ber of Os­teo­poro­sis Canada’s Sci­en­tific Ad­vi­sory Coun­cil.

More than 80% of all frac­tures in peo­ple 50+ are caused by os­teo­poro­sis. The dis­ease causes bones to weaken over time without any signs or symp­toms. “I had no idea that os­teo­poro­sis was some­thing that af­fects one in five men. I was as­tounded to learn I had it,” Larry says. “You re­ally can’t tell some­thing’s wrong until you start break­ing bones.”

MANY FAC­TORS AF­FECT BONE HEALTH

Os­teo­poro­sis can af­fect peo­ple at al­most any age, but it’s most com­mon among those 50 years and older. Fac­tors that af­fect bone health in­clude hor­mones, nutri­tion, smok­ing, al­co­hol, and cer­tain med­i­cal con­di­tions and med­i­ca­tions. Larry says ge­net­ics played a sig­nif­i­cant role in his os­teo­poro­sis. “My mother broke her hip and was bedrid­den for a year be­fore she passed away from com­pli­ca­tions.” His sis­ter has os­teo­poro­sis too. Larry’s seden­tary life­style also con­trib­uted. As a fed­eral bu­reau­crat for 35 years, most of his ca­reer was spent sit­ting be­hind a desk, in meet­ings and com­mut­ing.

Dr. Cheung says bone health doesn’t get the at­ten­tion it de­serves. “It’s only when mul­ti­ple of these oc­cur­rences hap­pen that some­one con­nects the dots. But then it’s so late. Can you imag­ine a pa­tient with eight heart at­tacks be­fore they get di­ag­nosed?” Larry was sur­prised by its po­ten­tially dev­as­tat­ing con­se­quences: 37% of men and 28% of women who suf­fer a hip frac­ture will die within one year.

OS­TEO­PORO­SIS CHANGED HIS LIFE­STYLE

Em­bar­rassed he had a “frag­ile woman’s dis­ease,” Larry kept it from all but his fam­ily and clos­est friends. Over time, he met other men with os­teo­poro­sis and started rais­ing aware­ness. In the al­most 20 years since his di­ag­no­sis, Larry has taken treat­ment and steps to pro­tect his bones. “Os­teo­poro­sis and the fact that you could break a bone, it guides all the de­ci­sions you make — what you’re go­ing to eat and drink and what you’re go­ing to do.”

Larry knows he has to watch what he eats and he’s care­ful to en­joy his favourite drink, craft beer, in mod­er­a­tion. Nordic walk­ing has made a dif­fer­ence. Not only does it en­gage mus­cles and im­prove car­dio, it’s taken him places he never would have gone. “For years I wouldn’t have con­sid­ered go­ing on many of the na­ture trails. But with Nordic poles, they give you the con­fi­dence that you’re go­ing to be bet­ter bal­anced and get over the small ob­sta­cles.”

USE IT OR LOSE IT

Peak bone mass is achieved be­tween the ages of 16 and 20 in women and 20 and 25 in men. We start los­ing bone mass in our mid30s. Hav­ing a good diet and phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity are im­por­tant to main­tain bone health, Dr. Cheung ex­plains. “You need to use it so you don’t lose it. If you’re seden­tary and don’t do a lot of weight-bear­ing or bal­ance ex­er­cises, you’ll lose bone as you age.”

KNOW YOUR RISK

“Don’t kid your­self! You too might be at risk,” says Larry. Com­plete Os­teo­poro­sis Canada’s free Know Your Risk tool at risk.os­teo­poro­sis.ca. If you’ve had a frac­ture or have other risk fac­tors, talk to your doc­tor about bone health.

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