Keeping up with the bones's
She’s young, she’s beautiful and full of life, so why is Catherine Spillane being checked out for an age-related disease? Anna Coogan reports
Osteoporosis is most commonly associated with post-menopausal women.
So why is pretty and bubbly 28-year-old Catherine Spillane, a PR executive from Kildare, having a scan to determine whether or not she is at risk of developing the brittle bone disease.
"My grandmother Kitty is 83 and six years ago was diagnosed with osteoporosis," says Catherine. Two years ago she shattered her wrist, and because the healing process is so slow with osteoporosis, she has suffered more than if she didn't have it.
"For a woman who is so independent, she now finds that she can't do what she used to. She would bake brown bread every day but now her wrist is too weak.
"She finds it difficult to open a carton of milk, and to twist the cap off a jar of jam," says Catherine.
"She is taking her calcium tablets and still going strong, so with luck she'll be back to herself soon."
Another reason Catherine had a DEXA scan of her spine and hip at Advanced Radiology in Rockfield Medical Campus in Dundrum, is that she was underweight when she was a teenager.
Continues Catherine: "I was around a stone underweight when I was doing my Leaving Cert. My body seems to burn fat at a rapid rate when I'm under stress.
"I was told by a doctor, when I had a full medical for a company I worked for, that women's bones develop in their teenage years.
"It's another reason why I wanted to have a bone-density test at some point. I was keen to determine my risk of osteoporosis, and to develop a lifestyle that would minimise any future risk," says Catherine.
Osteoporosis is a silent disease and you can suffer from full-blown osteoporosis without knowing it -- until you unfortunately break a bone.
Yet it is preventable, treatable and, in certain cases, reversible -- but early detection is the key to managing it.
People who are diagnosed with osteopenia (the early stage of osteoporosis) need to know if it is mild, moderate or severe. An exercise programme will be devised around age, medical history and DEXA scan results.
People with moderate to severe osteoporosis should avoid certain exercises, such as high impact training or regular sit-ups. Calcium, vitamin D and the appropriate weight-bearing exercises will help to prevent and also to treat osteoporosis.
"Whatever I am doing so far is working. I go to the gym a couple of times a week, and also try to go for regular runs," says Catherine.
"My diet seems to be working well, too. The thing about osteoporosis is that if you are diagnosed at being at risk in your twenties, you can reverse that risk.
"By increasing your intake of calcium and vitamin D and taking appropriate exercise, you can cut back on the risk of breaking a hip in the future," she says.
"Thankfully, the DEXA scan results were normal, so I'm not showing any signs of being a risk at the moment.
"I'm going to continue with what I'm doing. And I'm going to make my sister pay the €100 for a DEXA scan so that she can have the same reassurance," says Catherine.
"One in three women will develop osteoporosis at some point. Having seen my grandmother suffer so much made me much more aware of how it can affect your quality of life.
"I feel if you're going to keep yourself in good health into your eighties, especially if, like my grandmother, you're a very spirited person, then you don't want to be undermined by something like osteoporosis," she says.