Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Shrinking Woman .... ARRGhhh!

Recently I was at my annual physical checkup. As usual I had my list of possible concerns and questions which my long-time physician expects and he always insists I go through them all before the examination commences or we get down to specifics.

My mother suffered severely from osteoporosis, being severely bent over for many years before her death at 85. So I assume that is part of my medical legacy and for twenty years I took Hormone Replacement Therapy for bone loss prevention. But two years ago I stopped and so I suggested that perhaps I should have another bone density test, since it is three years since my last.

First of all, let's measure you, was his reply. How tall were you at your tallest? Five foot six inches, I replied. Mmm. Five foot four inches now. Normal, he said. What?????

Yes it is normal to lose two inches of height without necessarily having osteoporosis. The Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging found that the cumulative height loss from age 30 to 70 years averaged about 3 cm (1.18 inches) for men and 5 cm (1.97 inches) for women (Sorkin, Muller, & Andres, 1999).

The reason for this is that the discs which cushion and separate the vertebrae of the spine compress, and over time, shrink. This results in what we think of as normal age-related loss in height, which is not likely to be preventable.

However loss of height can be caused by the compression and deterioration of the vertebrae as a result of bone loss which is known as osteoporosis and this latter can be treated and prevented.

So for years, besides the HRT, I have taken calcium and Vitamin D supplements as well as consumed vast amounts of yogurt and dairy products, hoping to avoid my mother's fate. As well I have always done weight bearing exercises which are very helpful in making bones stronger.

Osteoporosis is a serious matter, not only causing loss of height (dowager's hump, although this is a disease which affects both sexes, usually at a later stage in men) but more commonly osteoporotic fractures of the hip, the vertebrae, or the wrist. Hip fractures are especially problematic since they can cause loss of mobility and consequently independence in the elderly. Did you know that 30% of all hip fractures are in men? Not only that, but these result in a 31% mortality rate by one year post-fracture in men, as opposed to a 17% mortality rate for women at the same post-fracture time.

Cutting straight to the chase, my physician recommended a spinal Xray to check if there were any signs of compression fractures, which is a definite sign of osteoporosis. Luckily there were none but now I have to go for bone density studies and depending on those results I might consider taking Fosamax, or alendronate, one of the class of drugs known as bisphosphonates which slow down bone loss in the body. Like every drug, bisphosphonates can have adverse side effects and one must consider those when making the decision to take the drug, as will I, especially if the results of the bone density tests are borderline.

So there I am, the incredible shrinking woman. With my increase in girth as well as my loss of height am I going to be Ms 5 by 5?

Disclaimer: The information contained in this post is not to be considered definitive or all-inclusive, although it is accurate to my knowledge and has been checked. Please consult your physician for information about osteoporosis and bisphosphonates or any tests mentioned.

Now I may be shrinking in real life but in Second Life I am five feet ten inches, over six feet in high heels.

Pretty cute too, even if I say so myself.


Around My Kitchen Table said...

Noooo - please don't tell me I'm shrinking! I was only 5ft 2in to start with (well, not when I was a child, obviously). I'm going to end up looking like a garden gnome. Some people say I already do.

Berni aka Vic Grace said...

Thanks for this it was informative. I have never asked my doctor about this maybe it is time I did.

On the humourous side does this account for the spare tire, a concertina effect and how does one read weight charts do I have to try for the weight of my previous height or my current one. I am only 5"3 1/2" don't forget the half. I can't afford to lose much height.

Carver said...

I had to laugh at the way you ended this post. Maybe I need a second life. I have already lost 2 inches from my full height and I'm not quite 52. I do have osteopenia but not a bad case. My initial height loss began after my radical hysterectomy in my early 30s even though I was on and continue to be on HRT so who knows. I see a rheumatologist and had a recent bone density scan and at this point I'm just supposed to keep taking calcium and vitamin D. Good luck with your studies!

Moggs Tigerpaw said...

You are getting real good at doing fashion shots. I wonder if you should freelance, or set up a studio? Earn some Linden$.

That shot is easily as good as some of the Professional ones and I figure your modelling is up there with the full time ones.

Probably more interesting, less bland. You go girl! Respect to the JMB.

Liz said...

Very cute!

i have what I have assumed is a slight dowager's hump. Husband tells me I'm the only one who notices but i am more aware of it now. I shall keep an even closer eye on it now thanks to your information.

jmb said...

AMKT, isn't awful? A garden gnome, what a thought.

You don't have much height to spare either Bernie. Make sure you get lots of calcium at least.

Golly Carver, that's not good but understandable I guess.

Thanks Miss Moggs. I'm not a great photographer in SL or RL but sometimes I get a good one and this is definitely one of them.

Lots of calcium Liz, gravity we can't do much about but we can hopefully help stave of osteoporosis.

Thanks to everyone for visiting and commenting.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

That's the answer! I must get me back to rights in "second life". I am taking the drugs you mention, as you know, and I thank you for making me aware of the possible side effects, which I have now looked up.

Ruthie said...

That illustration is positively alarming.

Your Second Life character is hot!