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Transcript: "Coping with Osteoporosis"

ELLA CARLSON: Nobody ever mentioned osteoporosis in our family-- never heard of it.

ANNOUNCER: Ella Carlson is 93. A slip on the ice 10 years ago resulted in fractures in her spine. Her doctor diagnosed osteoporosis.

ELLA CARLSON: He looked at the x-ray and he says, "Tsk, tsk, tsk, such little bones, but so well padded."

[ laughter ]

I didn't exactly appreciate that.

ANNOUNCER: Have you lost height?

ELLA CARLSON: Oh, yeah--I'm only 4'11" now and I was 5'4-3/4" when I came to the United States.

ANNOUNCER: Breaks in the spine, hip and wrist are the most serious consequences of osteoporosis. Fifty thousand people die each year as a result of hip fractures, usually because of complications from surgery or from being confined to bed. Ella has managed to walk again despite multiple setbacks. How many bones have you broken all together?

ELLA CARLSON: Well, I broke all of these bones in this wrist. They said there's eight bones in the wrist-- I broke every bone here--five, six and eight's 14. I broke my knee, I broke the pelvic, broke my two vertebras that-- [inaudible] I don't know, about 16 or 18 bones I've broken in my body.

PAUL BIESBROECK, M.D.: We hear the story of the woman who fell and broke her hip. In some cases, what actually happens is the woman broke her hip and fell down as a result. Also, with spine fractures, when a person's bone density is so low in the spine, even rolling over in bed or just walking can result in a spontaneous compression fracture of the spine.

ANNOUNCER: Is there anything to do at that stage, or is that hopeless?

PAUL BIESBROECK, M.D.: I don't think that osteoporosis should ever be looked upon as hopeless. Ten years ago, many physicians looked on osteoporosis as an untreatable condition, and when it developed, there was nothing to be done. I don't think that is true at this point. We now have potent medications that can improve bone density.

ANNOUNCER: Even though she's in her 90s, Ella's doctor put her on a bone-building drug a few months ago. A recent fall in her bedroom leads her to believe that her bones are already stronger as a result.

ELLA CARLSON: Well, I do, because I think the way I fell, and I only bruised that leg-- if I hadn't taken it, maybe I would have broken it. I said maybe--I don't know. I'm not no doctor. But I know it just bruised--a bad bruise and that's all there was to it.

ANNOUNCER: As you see from Ella, it's never too late to start treating osteoporosis. And it's also never too early to start preventing it. We need to be particularly concerned about our young daughters, making sure they get plenty of milk and calcium-rich food.

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