The Duchess of Cornwall recalls how her mother’s rib broke in a hug due to osteoporosis – and said she shows photos of her parents before and after the condition to her grandchildren to help them prevent it.
Camilla, 74, said she would like more young people to be informed about the fragile bone disease – which causes painful, debilitating and sometimes fatal fractures, particularly of the wrist, hip and spine – when she talks to Gloria Hunniford for the BBC to mark World Osteoporosis Day.
The Duchess, who has been president of the Royal Osteoporosis Society (ROS) since 2001, reflected on her own experience watching her mother, the Honorable Rosalind Shand, suffer from the condition.
She said the pain of seeing her mother and maternal grandmother Sonia Keppel’s health deteriorate due to osteoporosis means she shows her grandchildren pictures of Rosalind before and after the disease spread. Her mother died in 1994 at the age of 72 and her grandmother in 1986 at the age of 86.
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The Duchess of Cornwall (pictured left) recalls how her mother’s rib broke in a hug due to osteoporosis – and said she shows her grandkids before and after photos of her parents before and after the condition to help them prevent it
The Duchess, who has been president of the Royal Osteoporosis Society (ROS) since 2001, reflected on her own experience when she witnessed her mother, the Honorable Rosalind Shand (pictured together in 1965), who suffered from the condition.
The Duchess said she remembers how a friend’s hug broke her mother’s rib.
She said, ‘My mother, I think, went to everyone you could think of and they all said the same thing, ‘Sorry, you’re old.’ We just saw her shrink before our eyes.’
Asked about how traumatic it was for the rest of the family, Camilla said: “It was terrible because we didn’t know about it, so at one point we thought, ‘Well, is she so worried about this?’
“Every now and then she would literally scream when she moved or you touched her. I remember one day when a friend of hers came in to give her a hug, her rib broke. It was that bad.’
Camilla said osteoporosis can be prevented but not cured.
Camilla, 74, said she would like more young people to be informed about the fragile bone disease – which causes painful, debilitating and sometimes fatal fractures, particularly of the wrist, hip and spine – when she talks to Gloria Hunniford for the BBC to mark World Osteoporosis Day (pictured)
“You have to prevent it by looking at yourself and saying ‘Look, I don’t want this disease,’ so you have to exercise a lot, especially walking is best,” she said.
What is Osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis – or thinning of the bones – occurs when the body fails to replace old bone with new. As a result, the skeleton becomes porous and weak.
Although it mainly affects women after menopause, it can occur in younger women as well as in men. One in three women and one in 12 men will develop the disease at some point in their lives.
Because most people don’t realize they have it until they break a bone, it’s often referred to as a “silent epidemic.” It results in 150,000 fractures per year.
Women have a much higher risk of osteoporosis, partly because of the effects of hormonal changes during menopause — when estrogen production, which strengthens bones, drops dramatically — and partly because they have less bone mass to begin with.
However, some women are vulnerable to fragile bones much earlier in life. Dancers, gymnasts and long-distance runners have been shown to have a higher incidence of osteoporosis than the general population.
So also yo-yo dieters and people with eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa.
This is related to the very low body fat sometimes sought by each of these people, which often causes menstruation to become irregular or stop altogether. The resulting low estrogen levels increase the risk of thinning bones.
Heavy drinkers are also more at risk for the disease, as they are often malnourished.
About the importance of educating young people, Camilla said, “I think we all think we’re immortal, don’t we, when we’re young.”
She told the program: ‘I think I would like to see more young people get an education. I’d like to see more young people understand, not just think, you know, “poor old bats, we’re getting old and that’s what’s going to happen to us”.
“But really understand what’s happening and how they can prevent it.”
Hunniford asked Camilla if she is concerned about the young people in her family and if she is able to get the message across.
“I think my daughter’s generation is listening, it just gets through to grandchildren. But you know, they’re starting to be teenagers.
‘I showed them pictures of my mother before and after she got osteoporosis. I’d have them look at these pictures and say, “Look, if you’re not careful, it will happen to you,” she said.
The Royal Osteoporosis Society published a survey on living with the condition last week on World Osteoporosis Day.
Chief executive Craig Jones said: ‘The support of our President, HRH The Duchess of Cornwall, has been our greatest asset in raising awareness of the importance of preventing and treating osteoporosis as they see its impact first-hand. has seen in her own family.
‘Osteoporosis is one of the most pressing societal challenges to be able to live well in later life. Our new report gives us the richest set of insights for many years into its impact on the lives of the 3.5 million people living with the condition.
Whatever our age, we can pay attention to the health of our bones, which can help prevent the suffering, social isolation, disconnections and rising NHS costs caused by osteoporosis.
‘The disease can be treated and beaten. If we tackle it together, we can transform the afterlife experience for millions of people.”
The full interview with Camilla will be broadcast Monday at 9.15am on Morning Live on BBC One and BBC iPlayer.