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Monday, March 23, 2009

Ursula Andress on Osteoporosis

ENTERTAINMENT/HEALTH - Ursula Andress is the original James Bond girl, but she is hardly the stereotypical image of the osteoporosis sufferer. Andress is the iconic Bond Girl, emerging from the Jamaican waters like mythical Venus in the 1962 film 'Dr. No', complete with a knife tucked into her hip-belt.

Andress, 73-years-old, still looks to be around 60-something and unmistakable with her sharp cheekbones.

She is currently the spokesperson for 'Timeless Women: The Campaign for Stronger Bones', a program aiming to raise awareness of osteoporosis. It is a disease that weakens bones, making them more susceptible to breaks or fractures, usually in the hip, spine and wrist. It also reduces the body's ability to grow new bone tissue and repair micro-damage.

One in four women over the age 50 have osteoporosis. And it is surprisingly deadly, one out of five Canadians who fracture a hip will die in less than a year.

People as young as 25 can be affected by osteoporosis, as can men. One in six men over the age of 50 has osteoporosis.

"I have to accept the truth," says Andress. "Why would I want to hide it? If I can help other women I am happy to do it.

"It is important to reach the public. It is very important to create awareness and get a checkup (a bone-density test). I never took osteoporosis seriously: `Oh, it's an old-bone disease and can be cured with calcium.' It's a sickness and I was diagnosed at 60. I did the mammogram, blood-pressure test and they asked if I'd had a bone-density test. When they did it, they said, `On your left hip, we don't like that. Take this medication.'"

Staving off osteoporosis is best using a combination of exercise (especially weightlifting) and a high calcium diet. Sometimes that is not enough however.

"I was snow shovelling and I fell down. They told me then that I had osteoporosis. I had been taking extra calcium, and that wasn't enough."

For her condition, Andress intravenously takes an $800, annual dose of Aclasta, a medication that inhibits the release of calcium from bone. Before her fall, Andress thought she was warding off osteoporosis with calcium, but her lack of exercise had resulted in her body not absorbing all of the calcium she was eating.

Now Andress is on a huge exercise kick. "I don't do crazy things but I do certain exercises. I never go to the gym – I have a huge property and I work in the garden. I swim a lot; I have a pool. I walk so fast nobody can follow me. I don't lift weights except for 150 flower pots. And I do the lifting wrong. You are supposed to crouch down." Andress admits she should be doing more weightlifting but says "I am active and my freedom is so important. I will give up anything but my freedom. I need it to exist. I don't do anything more carefully. I hope not to fall but you never know: You go skiing, you fall."

Thankfully she doesn't ski any more.

"Dr. No was my first movie and they asked me what kind of gymnastics I do," she recalls. "I have never worked out in my life. I was born with an athletic body. As a child, I biked miles and miles to school and I did competitive swimming. I walk briskly but I do nothing with fanaticism."

Andress also appeared in over 30 films including Fun in Acapulco, What's New Pussycat?, The 10th Victim and Casino Royale (1967).

Andress was married to John Derek from 1957 to 1965, when he divorced her for younger actress Linda Evans.

Andress's advice for women getting older? Lots of milk and an active lifestyle.

QUESTION: Is Osteoporosis a feminist issue?

Yes, because its an issue of exercise and education. Women need to ignore the stereotypes about female athletes and go out there and exercise more.

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