Sally Field's Fight Against Osteoporosis

Sally Field has been the face of the boomer generation ever since she landed the role of "Gidget" in 1965.  The Oscar winning actress won our hearts portraying strong-willed women such as Norma Rae. Equally impressive is her ability to play women we all relate to, like Nora, the matriarch in the hugely popular television drama, Brothers and Sisters. Field embodies the heart, mind and physicality of the vibrantly-sexy 60-something woman we all strive to be.  Her most important role however, may be as the face of osteoporosis, an all-too-common condition that affects women in Field's age group.

Field was surprised when she was diagnosed with osteoporosis in 2005.  She spoke on Capitol Hill at National Women's Health Week during National Osteoporosis Month in 2007 and said, "I had always eaten right, I had always exercised, and I had always taken calcium. I tried to be a good girl all the way down the line, but it was going to get me." Field chose to tackle osteoporosis head on and encourages other women to be proactive with their bone health.

According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF), osteoporosis is a condition in which bones become weak and can break from a minor fall or, in serious cases, from a simple action such as a sneeze. 10 million Americans currently have osteoporosis; 80 percent are women.  At particularly high risk are women like Field-Caucasian, thin, small-boned and with a strong family history for osteoporosis. 

Who else is at risk? NOF provides these risk factors: 

  • Women of all races (especially Caucasian, Asian and Hispanic but African American women are also at risk) with low estrogen levels due to amenorrhea (missed periods) or menopause 
  • Older women, those with a history of broken bones, smokers, heavy alcohol users, and those with diets low in calcium and vitamin D and excessively high in protein, caffeine and sodium
  • People who take certain medications such as steroids and some anticonvulsants
  • People with certain diseases including anorexia nervosa, rheumatoid arthritis, gastrointestinal diseases and others
  • Men with low hormone levels

Field has always been physically active, has never smoked, and has been careful to eat the right foods. Yet she was unable to avoid osteoporosis.  In addition to taking calcium and Vitamin D supplements, Field takes Boniva (and is their celebrity spokesperson) a bisphosphonate medication commonly prescribed to treat osteoporosis.  Bisphosphonates like Boniva, Actonel, Fosamax, Reclast and Zomeda slow down bone loss and build bone mass. 

Bisphosphonates have recently made headlines due to reports they may be associated with increased risk for fracture of the femur. This has prompted an ongoing safety review by the FDA.  Other news headlines link bisphosphonates with reduced risk for breast cancer.

Prevention is the best medicine for avoiding osteoporosis.  NOF offers these 5 prevention tips:

  • Get your daily recommended amounts of calcium and vitamin D
  • Engage in regular weight-bearing exercise
  • Avoid smoking and excessive alcohol
  • Talk to your healthcare provider about bone health
  • When appropriate, have a bone density test and take medication