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Patient Stories

Building Bones: New Treatment Offers Hope for Osteoporosis Patients
By Healthy Life 2007 Summer

At 69 years old, Eleanor Kinally, a Peabody native, has three grown children, three grandchildren and another on the way. She works at the North Shore Mall part-time, and sells real estate too. Several years ago, she received some surprising news. During a routine exam with NSMC family practice doctor Natasha Shah, M.D., signs of osteoporosis appeared. Bone density testing proved that Dr. Shah’s diagnosis was correct.

“I really did not think anything was wrong,” explained Kinally. “Osteoporosis is a silent disease, that is virtually pain-free, and mine had no overt symptoms.” Osteoporosis is a condition that causes bones to become more porous (less solid and less dense), and that over time makes bones brittle and weak. The disease affects more than 25 million people every year. To maintain bone density, the body needs calcium and other minerals and must produce the proper amounts of several hormones, including estrogen in women and testosterone in men. In addition, an adequate supply of vitamin D is needed to absorb calcium from food and incorporate it into bones. Lastly, exercise, especially weight-bearing types helps retain or increase bone density and improves overall strength, decreasing the risk of falling and bone fractures associated with osteoporosis.

There are several factors that can put a person at risk for osteoporosis, including being over the age of 65, being female, and family history. In Kinally’s case, her mother had the disease too. “My mother died when she was 63 after fighting breast cancer,” explained Kinally. “We didn’t know until after she had passed that she also had osteoporosis. NSMC endocrinologist Colleen Digman, M.D., prescribed a relatively new injectable drug called Forteo. Unlike older osteoporosis drugs that decrease bone loss, Forteo actually stimulates the formation of new bone. “It’s so simple, and I don’t even feel it anymore. Now, it’s just a part of my daily routine,” says Kinally. Kinally also went through NSMC’s Strong Women program, a safe and effective strength-training program that includes a comprehensive exercise prescription and easy-to-use nutrition information for older adults.