After experiencing a series of falls in 2015, then 71-year-old, Henrietta Wright from Battersea, was diagnosed with osteoporosis.

Her diagnosis is made significantly more difficult by the fact that she also has to take steroids for another long-term illness, which are notorious for thinning bones and increasing the risk of osteopoerosis.

Now 78, Henrietta spoke to us about how she’s managing to keep her osteoporosis at bay through diet and lifestyle changes.

“I had a series of silly falls and a number of bone breakages”

I had a series of silly falls and a number of bone breakages

Retired mum-of-two Henrietta lives in Battersea with her husband Philip. She has four grandchildren and enjoys walking and reading in her spare time. Prior to retirement, Henrietta had worked for the Ministry of Defence and later became a full-time carer for her mother.

Henrietta explained that it was back in 2015 when signs of her osteoporosis first began to appear.

She says, “I’ve always done a lot of walking, mainly because we’ve always had dogs. But then I had a series of silly falls and a number of bone breakages that started in 2015. I broke both my wrists in quick succession, and also broke my ankle and elbow on other occasions. Naturally, my doctors looked into it and told me that my bones were thinning.

“I was first diagnosed with osteopenia, which is the stage before fully-fledged osteoporosis. I didn’t have pain per se – the falls were definitely the first sign. I was told by some doctors that you don’t always suffer pain with osteoporosis, but I know that others suffer horribly from it.”

“The diagnosis didn’t come as a shock to me. I’m quite tall like my mother was, and she had osteoporosis. It can be a genetic condition, so I always suspected that I might get it.”

“Unfortunately, I have to take steroids, which are detrimental to your bone health”

In 2018, Henrietta was also diagnosed with giant cell arteritis – otherwise known as temporal arteritis. This is a long-term condition that causes inflammation of the lining of arteries, most commonly in the head around your temples.

Giant cell arteritis can trigger all kinds of symptoms, including very bad headaches, scalp tenderness, jaw pain, and fatigue. The most common treatment is steroids, which Henrietta is currently taking.

Unfortunately, the NHS lists taking high-dose steroids for more than three months as one of the number one risk factors for developing osteoporosis due to their bone-thinning properties. Naturally, this complicates things for Henrietta.

She says, “Unfortunately, the only thing that manages to get rid of the headaches that I get is taking steroids, which we all know are notorious for thinning bones.

“That’s the trouble with osteoporosis – there are many other things that can upset it. Sometimes, you can do all the good in the world, for example, by exercising and eating a healthy diet, but if you’re diagnosed with another issue for which treatment causes bone thinning, it’s hard.”

“The hardest part of living with osteoporosis is the fear of falling again”

Henrietta explained that she feels lucky that for now she’s generally able to carry on with her current lifestyle, but that the hardest part of living with osteoporosis is the fear of falling again.

She says, “Generally, having osteoporosis doesn’t get in the way of my day-to-day life at the moment. Some things, such as doing the housework, can feel a little more arduous because my movement is slightly more restricted, but it’s nothing life changing.

“The hardest part of living with osteoporosis is definitely the fear of falling again. I haven’t had a fall since 2015 and I touch every bit of wood that I won’t have another.

“It does make me nervous, and that can sometimes be frustrating when you just want to be able to do what you’ve always done.”

Managing osteoporosis with a healthy diet and plenty of exercise

Managing osteoporosis with a healthy diet and plenty of exerciseAccording to science, some of the best things people living with osteoporosis can do is stay active and follow a diet that’s low in salt and high in fresh, unprocessed foods.

For example, studies show that exercising regularly can reduce the rate of bone loss and also lower the chance of having a fall – which are the main cause of bone fractures – by building muscle, and improving strength and balance.

In line with this advice, alongside her prescribed medication, Henrietta explained that she prioritises staying active and following a healthy diet.

She says, “One of the main things that I do to prevent my osteoporosis from worsening is exercise. Luckily, we live very close to Battersea Park, so I like to walk around there a lot and move as much as I can.

“In terms of diet, I just try to be sensible. I’ve got a very sweet tooth so I try very hard to keep that at bay! But I make sure that I eat plenty of fruit and vegetables, as well as oily fish which they say is good for osteoporosis. Personally, I’ve also made the decision to eat meat only very occasionally nowadays, as research suggests that reducing your meat intake can help to prevent the loss of bone density.

“Of course, vitamin D and calcium are important for healthy bones too, so I take chewable pills to supplement my vitamin D intake and make sure I’m eating enough calcium-rich foods, like yoghurt.

“I wouldn’t say that I’ve necessarily noticed a difference from making these changes, but rather I pride myself on the fact that it doesn’t feel as though it’s got any worse and things are stable.”

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“I’m managing to keep it under control, and long may it last!”

When asked what advice she’d give to anyone else who suspects they might be suffering from osteoporosis, Henrietta urges them to get checked out by a doctor as soon as possible.

She says, “Medical professionals are pretty wary of osteoporosis because they know that many people – particularly the elderly – can have various health problems from falls. So for anyone who they suspect may have osteoporosis, they’ll likely give you treatment to help.”

Looking towards the future, Henrietta explained that, for now, she’s happy to be able to keep her condition on a steady level and carry on with her day-to-day routines. Her main goal remains to prevent it from worsening and, as soon as she can, come off of her steroid medication.

She says, “I’m managing to keep it under control, and long may it last! Unfortunately, these steroids that I’m on aren’t a help, so I’m hoping that the day will come where I don’t have to take them anymore – and that should help my bones to stay on an even keel.”

For more information on osteoporosis, you might like to have a read of our article; Osteoporosis – symptoms, treatment, and prevention.

For more information on osteoporosis, you might want to check out the Royal Osteoporosis Society’s website using the button below. Over there, you’ll find various information on the risk factors for developing the condition, how it’s diagnosed, and tips on how to manage.