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Osteoporosis - not just a woman's concern.

We asked Dr. Felicia Cosman at Helen Hayes Hospital in New York about osteoporosis, a condition that makes bones weak and susceptible to fracture. It can be triggered by lack of weight-bearing exercise along with nutritional deficiencies, and it is known to affect women after menopause due to changes in hormone levels. Risk is especially high for women who are small-boned, sedentary, extremely thin, and who smoke, drink excessively, or have osteoporosis in the family.

Dr. Cosman is investigating osteoporosis in women and men with MS in a Society-funded research project.

"Anyone with MS may be at risk for osteoporosis," Dr. Cosman said. "Both men and women often have mobility and fatigue problems that make doing weight-bearing exercise unlikely or impossible. Those who are heat-sensitive stay out of the sun, which could mean a lack of Vitamin D, and steroid drugs, routinely prescribed to shorten attacks, impact on the vitamin-hormone-mineral balances that keep bones healthy.

"Osteoporosis in MS is a secondary problem. So are falls. If we could cure MS we wouldn't worry, but for now, broken bones are a problem no person with MS needs!

Prevent it, detect it, treat it

"Adequate calcium is the key to prevention. Both men and women with MS should get 1200 rags of calcium every day. There's an easy way to estimate intake. Count each helping of a dairy food as 300 and add 200 for trace calcium from other sources, like green vegetables. So if you drink a glass of nonfat milk at every meal, you're only 100 rags short at the end of day, and a supplement will bring you home. Increasing foods rich in calcium is also a good way to improve diet generally.

"For women after menopause, HRT (hormone replacement therapy) is an effective prevention. There is no reason to rule it out for women with MS, unless the woman has had phlebitis or blood clot problems. It might even turn out that estrogen helps control the underlying MS. The new "designer" estrogen eliminates some of the unpleasant side effects--and retains some of the positive effect on bone mass.

"Osteoporosis has no symptoms, unless you count a fracture. Any person who has broken a bone in adulthood and every woman with MS at menopause should have a bone scan. This is a painless, noninvasive exam that will enable your physician to measure bone mass, prescribe treatment if needed, and see how that treatment progresses.

"Today, treatment with HRT, for women, or a powerful new non-hormonal drug, alendronate (Fosamax), for either sex will likely help prevent further deterioration of the skeleton and reduce the likelihood of future fractures."

RELATED ARTICLE: Resources for Women with MS

PUBLICATIONS: Abled! Newsletter. Information for "Active, Beautiful, Loving, Exquisite, and Disabled" women. Write: Abled! Publications, 12211 Fondren, Suite 703, Houston, TX 77035; or call: 713-726-1132.

Enabling Romance, by Ken Knoll and Erica Levy Klein. Bethesda, MD: Woodbine House, Inc., 1995. 211pp. $15.95. Write: 6510 Bells Mill Road, Bethesda, MD 20817; or call: 800-843-7323.

Mother-to-Be: A Guide to Pregnancy and Birth for Women with Disabilities, by Judith Rogers and Molleen Matsumura. New York: Demos Publications, 1998. 420pp. $29.95 (plus $4 shipping and handling). Write: Demos/Vermande, 386 Park Avenue South, Suite 201, New York, NY 10016; or call: 800-532-8663.

Our Bodies, Ourselves for the New Century, by Boston Women's Health Collective. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1998. 784pp. $24 (plus applicable sales tax). Write: Simon & Schuster, attention: Order Department, 200 Old Tappan Road, Old Tappan NJ 07675.

Reproductive Issues for Persons with Physical Disabilities, by Florence P. Haseltine, Sandra S. Cole, and David B. Gray, Eds. Baltimore:

Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co., 1993. 400pp. $34.95 (plus 15% shipping and handling when ordering by credit card). Write: Paul H. Brookes Publishing Company, P.O. Box 10624, Baltimore, MD 21285-0624; or call: 800-638-3775.

"Safer Sex for People with Disabilities and Other Creative People"; "Services for Men and Women with Disabilities." Write: Planned Parenthood: Shasta-Diablo Disability Program, 2185 Paceco Street, Concord, CA 94520; or call: 510-676-0505.

A Woman's Guide to Coping with Disability, 2nd Edition. Lexington, Mass: Resources for Rehabilitation, 1997. 256pp. $42.95 (plus $5 shipping and handling). Write: Resources for Rehabilitation, 33 Bedford Street, Suite 19A, Lexington, MA 02173; or call: 781-862-6455.

Women with Physical Disabilities: Achieving and Maintaining Health and Well-Being, by Danuta M. Krotoski, Margaret A. Nosek, and Margaret A. Turk, Eds. Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co., 1996. 482pp. $42.95 (plus 15% shipping and handling when ordering by credit card). Write: Paul H. Brookes Publishing Company, PO. Box 10624, Baltimore, MD 21285-0624; or call: 800-638-3775.


Cal-WILD: An international list serve where women with disabilities can share experiences, information, and ideas. To subscribe, e-mail owner-calwild@; in the subject heading, type: "subscribe"; in the message, include your e-mail address, verify that you are a woman, and describe your relationship to the disability community.

PeopleNet DisAbility DateNet home page: For adults with disabilities who want to participate in discussions about love, sexuality, and relationships; dating service allows you to place personal ads on-line and off-line. URL: mauro; or write: P.O. Box 897, Levittown, NY 11756.


Center for Research on Women with Disabilities (CROWD): An organization dedicated to expanding the life choices of women with disabilities. Baylor College of Medicine, Department of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, 3440 Richmond Avenue, Suite B, Houston, TX. 77046; Phone: 713-960-0505; URL:

Society for the Advancement of Women's Health Research: Nonprofit advocacy agency promoting the health of women through research. 1828 L Street, NW Suite 625, Washington, DC 20036; URL:

Through the Looking Glass: Resources for adults or parents with disabilities and parents of children with disabilities. 2198 6th Street, Suite 100, Berkeley, CA 94710-2204; Phone: 800-644-2666; URL:
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Ask an Expert
Author:Cosman, Felicia
Publication:Inside MS
Date:Jun 22, 1998
Previous Article:Should I have a baby?
Next Article:Rebates for adapting your vehicle.

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