Osteoporosis support group forming in Comox Valley
Osteoporosis is more common than many people may think.
In fact, one in three women and one in five men will experience a bone fracture due to osteoporosis during their lifetime, according to Osteoporosis Canada's website.
Diana Braunberger, an 81-year-old Courtenay resident, knows all too well what it's like to live with the disease as she was diagnosed with it in 1999 — and she keeps hearing from people in the Comox Valley who want more information and support in dealing with the disease.
"I think there's just a gap in our community of where people can come and talk about (osteoporosis), you know, ask questions, talk about how they're feeling, share with other people who are going through the same thing," she says.
Braunberger, who is a retired registered nurse, plans to start an osteoporosis support group in the Comox Valley with the help of Michele Caley, a registered nurse at the Comox Valley Nursing Centre.
The first meeting will be at 2 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 27 at the nursing centre at 615 10th St. in Courtenay. Anyone interested in attending is asked to call 250-331-8504, ext. 68415 to register.
The initial meeting is designed to gauge community interest in the support group.
"At this point we just want to have a meeting to find out who's interested in being part of a group," says Caley, adding she also sees a need for a support group in the Valley. "I think it's an important group — I think that if you look at the stats you can really see how osteoporosis affects a lot of people.
"It sounds like there are a lot of people out there looking for information."
Braunberger adds many people may not even know they have osteoporosis until they fracture a bone. In fact, she had no idea she had the disease until she fractured one of her vertebrae in 1999. After a bone scan, she was diagnosed, and since then she's had numerous fractures.
"My thoracic No. 7 vertebrae — and there's 12 (of them) — from seven down, plus all my lumbar ones, there's only one that's not fractured now — just T-11 is still there," she says. "And then my hip went two years ago — I got out of the car, put my weight down and went to the ground. It broke."
Braunberger has also lost about seven inches off her height due to the disease.
She points out her normally active lifestyle became restricted as soon as she was diagnosed, although she walks regularly, and eats healthy food as a way to manage the disease.
She tried various types of medication over the years, but none of it stopped her bones from fracturing and she was experiencing side effects, so she stopped. However, Braunberger and Caley point out medication does work for other osteoporosis sufferers.
They also stress that anyone concerned they may have osteoporosis should speak to their doctor.
Braunberger says people should pay more attention to prevention measures when they're young.
According to Osteoporosis Canada's website, building strong bones during childhood and adolescence is the most important prevention measure. Peak bone mass is reached at age 16 to 20 in girls and 20 to 25 in men. Bone density starts to drop during the mid-30s.
Thus, Braunberger strongly urges young people to ensure they get enough calcium so they build up their bone strength.
Dairy products, almonds, salmon and calcium with vitamin D supplements are some sources she suggested.
For more information on osteoporosis, including risk factors, visit www.oseoporosis.ca. For more information on the Comox Valley osteoporosis support group, call Michele Caley at 250-331-8504 ext. 68425.