I had a bone density scan during my last annual check-up and got a nasty surprise.
Like too many women my age, I’ve got osteoporosis.
“But I walk everywhere!“ I protested to my doctor. “I walk for at least an hour a day. And I work at a public library, so I’m not only on my feet, but I’m also carrying books. Isn‘t checking in hefty tomes like ‘The Goldfinch’ and ‘The Luminaries’ just like lifting weights?”
My doctor told me that although all that walking is great for my overall health and keeps me lean, ironically I’m too lean for it to count as the kind weight-bearing exercise that would strengthen my skeleton. My body just doesn’t have enough weight to bear. So if you’re struggling to lose that last 10 pounds, look on the bright side: Carrying more of your own body weight is good for your bones.
As it turns out, I’ve also got bad habits that, over the years, have leached the calcium out of my bones: drinking lots of coffee and over-salting my food.
My doc has given me a year to do what I can to strengthen my bones. Or else? I’ll have to go on that drug Sally Field is always pushing on TV.
I’ve researched what I can do to improve my bone density. The answer?
One study concluded that when postmenopausal women ate 12 prunes a day, it improved their bone density.
Another thing I can do?
Women who jumped 20 times a day, according to a different study, also improved their bone density.
From now on, just think of me as the prune-eating, leaping librarian.
(Prunes being what they are, I’m lucky that my digestive system is sturdy, or I’d be the leaping farting librarian.)
I now keep a supply of prunes in the staff fridge. The upside? Unlike my former go-to snack of vanilla jellybeans, my new supply lasts a lot longer. My co-workers never ask if they can have a prune. The downside? They’re prunes.
Now when you approach the circulation desk at the library where I work, I’ll leap into the air before asking, “How can I help you?”
How have our patrons responded to my behavior? So far, they’ve been too polite and well mannered to mention it. (Although one dude did grin and ask if I was working on my David Lee Roth imitation.)
I’ve also stopped over-salting my food. And I’ve cut down (a little) on my coffee drinking.
It’s far too early to tell if any of this is doing me any good. Check back in a year. In the meantime? If you haven’t gotten a bone density scan, I encourage you to do so.
The sooner you get on it, the better for your bones.
I do hope that your bones, unlike mine, are fabulous. But the next time you come into my library, if I leap into the air and ask “How can I help you?” and you leap into the air before asking if I can put “Strong Women, Strong Bones” on hold for you, I’ll leap into the air again and say “Certainly.”
Then I’ll offer you a prune.
Roz Warren is the author of “Our Bodies, Our Shelves: A Collection of Library Humor” and writes for the New York Times, the Huffington Post and many other publications. You can connect with her on Facebook and Twitter @WriterRozWarren.