I began taking estrogen at 44 after having a total hysterectomy. No ovaries. No estrogen. After popping the little pills for over 15 years, I worried about whether they were increasing my risk of getting breast cancer, so I quit taking them two years ago. (It’s never easy weighing the benefits and risks of everything we do to and with our bodies.)
While I was still on estrogen, I passed the bone density test with flying colors. My score dropped noticeably, post-estrogen, and the report indicated that I had osteopenia. Oh great, I thought. Should I go back on estrogen, which is wonderful for my bones, and risk breast cancer? Or should I stop estrogen and risk osteoporosis?
I called an orthopedic surgeon I knew, who recommended that I start taking Actonel to build up my bones. I also called my long-time gynecologist, who told me it was fine to continue the low doses of estrogen (but warned me that if I had been off it for more than a year, it could cause a heart attack if I suddenly started again.)
OMG, I thought. Whose advice should I follow?
I had a million Geri Brin questions. Is Actonel the same as Boniva? Are these drugs safe? Do I need to drink milk like I did when I was 10? Should I start taking calcium supplements and how much? How bad is my osteopenia and will I absolutely develop osteoporosis? Will exercise really help?
I’d better learn as much as I can about bone health before deciding. When my grandmother broke her hip twenty-five years ago, at 80, it was expected. Women got old, their bones became brittle and that was that. We’re luckier than our grandmother’s generation because we know more about bones and how to keep them healthy, but what’s the best plan for my bones?
We decided to create an FOF Bone Health Challenge so I could get the answers I needed, and so, too, could hundreds of thousands of other FOF women. When I Googled osteoporosis and started wading through the murky waters of most health websites, I thought I’d drown in an ocean of sketchy, unreliable and contradictory information. I’m a reporter so I can tell in a moment when articles are poorly researched.
Thanks to a partnership with the experts at the Cleveland Clinic and the National Osteoporosis Foundation, FOF has launched the first National Bone Health Challenge. The videos and case studies are easy to follow, plus you can ask the docs questions and have a chance to win an incredible package of goodies worth $3,000.