Are you a thief?

Published 9:07 pm Friday, February 5, 2010

I’ve seen a commercial lately that reminds me of a speech I often give my patients.

If you haven’t heard the speech, here is your chance!

The commercial that stirred me refers to robbing calcium from your bones.

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First off, I’ll let you know, I really hate robbers and thieves. I think I’ll embellish on my thievery complaint here.

First I’ll start with bone thievery!

The truth is, girls don’t think about it! Women don’t think about it! Elders seldom even think about it!

But, not thinking about it or admitting it, doesn’t mean that it isn’t true.

Every day that you don’t ingest an adequate amount of calcium, you are actually stealing calcium from your bones! Your body is set up to use your bones as a calcium storage area. The calcium fills your bones just like limestone fills caves. The more calcium you add, the better the bone. The more calcium you wash out, the more your bones become like larger caves and lime sinks; they collapse!

Your body has priorities.

Calcium is needed for each of the billions of cells in your body to function. Calcium is particularly necessary for your heart to beat. Your body control center will make sure there is enough calcium circulating around for your heart to function, even when it has to pirate the stuff from your bone to do it. Some women think they are fine because the calcium level on their blood chemistry panel is normal.

That is just not true. You can have bones like the Marianna Caves and still have a normal blood calcium. Your body will just about sacrifice all to keep your blood calcium level normal.

To prevent thievery before the menopause a woman needs to get in 1,000 mg of calcium per day. After the menopause that requirement goes up to 1,200 mg per day.

And don’t forget you also need your Vitamin D to absorb the calcium you take in. Get in your calcium, don’t be a thief!

Stealing years

There is another type of thievery that may be even more convicting than calcium theft.

Are you stealing years of love and support from your family?

Are you lost in yourself and not thinking of the others that are tied to you by bonds of blood or marriage?

It hurts me when I see women (and men) who are involved in behaviors that steal years from their future life.

OK, I’ll admit we don’t have all the answers to preventing illness, but we do have many answers. If you smoke, we know you are greatly increasing your odds of developing limiting and strangling lung disease, bad bones, multiple types of cancer and other numerous maladies.

If you drink alcohol, it needs to be minimal and limited. Across this country hundreds of college students die every year from alcohol intoxication. Drunk drivers and innocents alike can die way too early from collisions. Women consuming alcohol can threaten their unborn baby, even in the early weeks before they know they are pregnant. Pregnant or not, women who consume over a couple of drink equivalents a week probably are also increasing their risk of breast cancer as well. This list doesn’t even start to include ill effects such as lower bone density and an increased risk of fall and fracture.

While we are talking about thieving years from your future time with loved ones, kids and grandkids, let’s talk about overeating.

I have told my son that if we were smart, we would get into the business of motorized wheel chairs. Surely you have noticed, there is an interesting combination of demographic trends developing. Americans are surviving longer. Both the number of elders, and the percentage of the population that is elderly, are growing.

The baby boomers will bring even larger groups of senior citizens along and increase this trend. There is also an increasing trend toward obesity. To me it seems that it is no stretch to predict that there will be more and more need for motorized wheel chairs, and they better make them plenty wide and heavy duty!

In addition to restricting activity, obesity in the elder years raises the risk of knee failure, hypertension, diabetes, heart disease and thrombosis in the veins. All of these conditions tend to shorten life expectancy.

Don’t waste time and don’t wait. Push away from that super buffet now. Don’t go for those second helpings and be wise about limiting calorie-packed snacks jammed between meals.

Ignoring advice

One of the more certain ways to steal days from you future is to ignore the advice of your doctor. Physicians aren’t generally dumb!

We realize that many times, let’s make that almost all the time, our patients don’t take their medicines perfectly. We appreciate those who do their best to be compliant. But then there are the others. Patients miss doses, “borrow” medicines, take medicines from friends, take more than they should to try to improve recovery, leave the medicine someplace else for the weekend, forget whole days of therapy, or maybe just decide to not ever get it filled because they “don’t want to be on medicine.” Yeah, we know it happens!

When a patient has done her research and made herself knowledgeable enough to make a truly informed decision, I have no problem with her weighing the decision or even being upfront about rejecting therapy all together. However, if you haven’t done exhaustive research on your own, why not take the advice of someone who has and is dedicated to your future, someone who bases his or her decision on years, maybe even decades, of learning.

That would make sense to me.

I tell you, every year it happens: hypertension patients don’t take their meds and end up on dialysis; heart patients don’t take their meds and end up with strokes or premature deaths; osteoporosis patients who are scared of some small theoretical risk from a medicine, just don’t take it and end up in the nursing home after a fractured hip; diabetics lose vision or toes because they didn’t monitor and treat their blood sugars.

The waste of a human potential is very sad to me and should be scary and sad for you. When God creates each of us in His image, I am sure that His desire is for us to fulfill our full potential and not get cut artificially short.

There are many areas in medicine where we have much to learn and where our therapies need to make substantial progress.

Maybe one day, rather than just manage the disease, we will actually be able to cure diabetes, hypertension, arthritis, heart disease, osteoporosis and others. While we wait for that day, we do have a handle on countless ways that can help to maintain quality of life and save you years to spend with those you love. If there is a way to preserve that time, why wouldn’t you want to save those years?

You can have years to bounce grandkids on your knees, fill that rocking chair on the porch beside your spouse, give your son advice when he is in a quandary, or be there for your daughter to have a shoulder to lean on. Why would you choose to deny them this?

Don’t allow shortsightedness or stubbornness to rob you of time, time due the ones who love; the ones who need you. Be smart for yourself and for those around you! Please please don’t be a thief!

For more information or to view more articles written by Dr. Don Robinson, go to his Web site at