‘How I beat osteoporosis’

Judi Paxton, 62, talks about her shock at being diagnosed with osteoporosis.

“Four years ago I was working as an HR Director. I was stuck in the office day in, day out from eight in the morning till six or seven at night. I never saw daylight and I never took any exercise because I was so busy working all the time.

“But never in a million years did I think my lifestyle might be affecting my bone health.”

First signs

“One day I was walking down the road with my husband when I twisted my ankle. I felt a snap and fell over. My husband took me to A&E and it turned out that my ankle was broken.

“I was referred to the local fracture liaison service for a DEXA (or DXA) scan, which measures the density of your bones.

“It took ages to get the appointment because the service was very busy. But finally, eight months after I broke my ankle, they did the scan. It was a bit like an X-ray really. I just lay there while they scanned different parts of my body.”

Shock diagnosis

“Once they had finished they told me there and then that I had osteoporosis (when the bones become weak and fragile).

“I was in shock. I thought: ‘My bones are all fragile so I can’t do anything anymore. If I fall over I will break something’. It was a horrible feeling.

“The staff at the clinic were very kind. They gave me some leaflets about osteoporosis and referred me to the physiotherapists.

“When I saw the physios they measured me, checked my balance and generally looked me over. They also referred me for a series of 12 strengthening and balance exercise classes.”

Reassuring news

“When I told one of the physios how worried I felt, she said: ‘You don’t need to be – if you do all the things we tell you, you can improve your bone density’.

“Once I heard that, I perked up no end. I hadn’t realised till then that you can actually improve your bone health. I thought: ‘Yes, I can do this’.

“In the classes we did press-ups against the wall to strengthen our wrists, shoulders and back. We used light weights and stretchy bands to strengthen our muscles, as well as stepping on and off a low step and some brisk walking.

“All the time two physios watched over us all and took great care with us.

“Once the classes ended I was referred on to Vitality classes, which are run by the local authority with help from the NHS. These are special exercise classes for people who are a bit more fragile for some reason. That could be due to osteoporosis, arthritis, asthma or following a heart attack. Again, they were very good.”

Healthy diet

“I started to eat as healthy a diet as possible. I had more milk and yoghurts to provide calcium for my bones. Instead of crisps I’d have handfuls of flavoured almonds, which are good for calcium too.

“I ate plenty of eggs and oily fish for vitamin D and got out into the daylight whenever I could. I also took tablets containing calcium and vitamin D twice a day.

“A year after my fall I decided to give up work. I realised I needed to put my health first. It meant I could get on with taking exercise, being out in the fresh air and generally getting fitter.

“Two years after being diagnosed with osteoporosis, I had another DEXA scan. My bone density had improved by 14%. I was so pleased and excited.

“It just shows that it is totally possible to improve your bone health. I have done what I was told by the physios and have improved my bone health so much. I am not actually classed as having osteoporosis any more although I still have osteopaenia (lower bone density) in my spine.”

Staying strong

“Now that I’m not working I spend a lot of time in the garden. It’s good because it gets you out into the daylight and it involves weight-bearing exercise.

“I also go to three exercise classes a week – two pilates classes and an easy circuit class.

“As funny as it sounds, I was so fortunate to break my ankle. If I hadn’t gone for that DEXA scan my bones would just have got worse and worse.

“To anyone who finds themselves in my situation, I would say don’t despair. As long as you put the effort in – eating the right things, taking some exercise and getting out in daylight – you can improve matters. Being diagnosed with osteoporosis doesn’t have to be the end of the world.”

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