Health: Osteoporosis Update

ursula26.jpgAt 26, Ursula Andress strode out of
the Caribbean Sea in a white bikini and into stardom — a scene
a 2003 British poll proclaimed the sexiest
moment in screen history. As Honey
Ryder in Dr. No, the first James Bond
movie, Andress set the bar for future
Bond women. “That was an ugly bikini,”
she recalls, laughing. “I didn’t like
the one we had, so we made this one
ourselves — you can see the stitches!” (It
sold at auction in 2001 for £35,000.)

Today, the 73-year-old Swiss-born
actress lives in a villa near Rome where
she tends a 12,000-square-metre garden
and swims daily. A diagnosis of
osteoporosis (which causes weak and
brittle bones) in her early 60s surprised
her. “If someone should not have osteoporosis,
it is I,” she says. “I work in the
garden from morning to night. I swim,
I walk fast and I eat a lot of good food.
I love my freedom. If I could not be active,
it would be a tragedy for me.”

Canadian womursula.jpgen with osteoporosis
agree activity is hugely important. (In
Canada, one in four women over 50
and one in eight men have the disease.)
A survey released by Osteoporosis Canada
in March 2009 revealed two-thirds
of osteoporotic women felt busy and on
the go (only 23 per cent felt fragile), but
69 per cent of doctors didn’t perceive
them as active. The survey revealed 70 per cent of them failed to take their
medication as prescribed and 54 per
cent of these women were deliberately
missing doses — yet few asked for different,
more lifestyle-friendly therapy.
The Canadian Medical Association Journal
reported in August 2009, however,
that one in four people over 50 who have
broken a hip, dies within five years.

Dr. Robert Josse of Osteoporosis Canada’s
scientific advisory council says
someone active, fit and who takes calcium
can still get osteoporosis. Fortunately,
technology now can identify
them before a fracture occurs. (Osteoporosis
Canada recommends a bone
mineral density test for everyone at age
65, earlier if risk factors, such as easily
broken bones, warrant.)

Andress admits she found taking the
pills a bother, even calcium supplements.
“I didn’t think of osteoporosis
as a sickness,” she says. “I thought it
was just old bones. I didn’t know that if
you don’t treat it, it gets worse.” So she
and her doctor decided on a program
she could follow. Now, she encourages
women to discuss osteoporosis at their
annual checkup and, if they have the
disease, to insist on a therapy compatible
with their lifestyle, since effective
drugs can be prescribed to be taken on
a daily, weekly, monthly or even an annual

–Jayne MacAulay