Your Healthy Bones Action Plan
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Katy Koontz was 38 and the mother of an active 4-year-old girl when her doctor delivered some upsetting news. The Knoxville, Tennessee, mom -- whose period inexplicably never came back after the birth of her daughter -- was in early menopause. Concerned about the rapid bone loss that occurs when a woman's period stops, her doctor referred Koontz for a bone-density test. "I thought it was weird that I was in menopause, but I didn't expect anything unusual because I had always been healthy," says Koontz, who regularly walked five miles per day. When she learned a few days later that she had severe osteoporosis -- bones so brittle that they could easily fracture -- she was horrified. "My doctor said she had last seen bones like mine in an 83-year-old," recalls Koontz, now 46. Overnight Koontz's life changed dramatically. A lifelong skier, she had to give up the sport for fear of having a bone-shattering fall. Ditto for ice-skating and sledding with her daughter, Sam. "I suddenly felt old and fragile," says Koontz.
What happened to Koontz is shocking because she's so young, but she's hardly unique. An estimated 1.5 million American women in their 40s or younger have osteoporosis, making them vulnerable to potentially devastating fractures of the hip, spine, and wrist. Because we tend to have bones that are smaller and less dense than men's and lose bone mass more quickly, 80 percent of the nation's 10 million osteoporosis sufferers are women. An additional 34 million American women have a serious but less-critical condition called osteopenia: bone mass that's significantly lower than normal, putting them at high risk for osteoporosis.
It's never too late to start improving your bones. And if you have daughters, it's also important to get them involved in keeping their bones strong. The steps you take now can pay off for a lifetime.