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THE BONE DENSITY PROGRAM: THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING DENSE

Maria always watches what she eats, but she's concerned more with nutritional quality than with calories. Until recently, she never had to pay attention to her weight, but ever since she passed 40, it seems to creep up on her if she's not careful. She's probably out buying organic baby spinach and portobello mushrooms and free-range chicken for dinner tonight—if she's done with her three-mile walk—and picking the right wine to go with it. She took a multivitamin this morning that also contains several trace minerals, and before bed tonight she'll take a calcium and magnesium capsule. Her new doctor helped her cut down on the amount of thyroid hormone she was taking to counteract her underactive gland—and her energy level redoubled. Her colleagues at the university are always saying they would mistake her for a student if they didn't know better, and although she always dismisses that as pure flattery, inside she feels no different from how she did in her younger days. Last weekend she wallpapered the nursery at her very pregnant younger sister's house, then went hiking with her old graduate school buddies.

Sheila finally kicked a long-standing fatty-food habit a few years back, after taking a good look at the photos from her surprise 50th-birthday party. She remains a confirmed red-meat eater, but now with smaller servings only a couple of times a week. Just don't ask her to give up cheese! Once she cut out most of the sugary snacks she used to live on, she no longer felt lethargic after she ate, and she never got the uncomfortable sense of fullness that had taken away some of the pleasure of a nice piece of steak. Petite and "fine boned" (as her mother, who gave her daughter her peaches-and-cream complexion, always said), Sheila certainly stands out among many of the employees (who tend to be male and muscular) at the construction firm she founded. She was a devoted jogger for years when that was all the rage, but these days she prefers her ballet classes or swimming laps, even though some days she just can't get to either. But it's not like her company can run itself!

Althea, an African-American accountant—and grandmother of three—recently reached a personal best on the chest press machine at the gym, and was delighted to watch the man following her take the weight down a notch. She became a vegetarian many years ago, partly to keep her large frame healthy despite what the actuarial tables say is a few too many pounds for a woman of her height. These days, she is eating more vegan meals, though she does occasionally eat fish. After she switched from dairy milk to soymilk (calcium fortified)—except in her coffee, where nothing but cream will do—she noticed her on-and-off bouts of indigestion were more off than on. Then she read in a magazine about the heart-healthy and estrogenic effects of soy products, and began to think that maybe all those tofu stir-fries had something to do with her low cholesterol levels and why she never had menopausal symptoms. That's when she got some of that soy protein powder from the gourmet/organic food store in her neighborhood. She liked that store, even though the produce can't really compare with what she grows in her own large garden.

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