VIP: Beating Bone Loss

Healthy Aging, Healthy Living
on August 3, 2012
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Conventional wisdom maintains that old dogs can’t learn new tricks, but Joyce DeVane proves this saying wrong—and then some. Since retiring from a 25-year stint at AT&T, the 64-year-old grandmother from Jacksonville, Fla., has traveled to all corners of the globe in search of new experiences.

“I love being adventurous,” Joyce says. “When I was working, I promised myself that I would travel the world and do everything as soon as I retired.”

Despite suffering from bone loss in her 40s, Joyce didn’t fall short on her dream—from scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef to taking trapeze lessons to zip-lining down a cave in Chile, she has truly done it all.

“I’ve tried so many incredible things that I’ve always dreamed of doing,” Joyce says. “But I couldn’t have done it if I didn’t have my health.”

Health isn’t something Joyce puts on autopilot—she works at it. The fitness enthusiast does some kind of aerobic exercise, typically cycling, three days a week, and attends strength-training classes every other day. She eats “clean,” consuming only natural foods and eliminating all processed foods, trans fats, white breads, refined sugars and alcohols.

“Sometimes my granddaughter will come over for dinner and ask, ‘Can’t I just have white bread?’” Joyce says with a laugh. “And I’ll tell her, ‘No, because I don’t have any in my house.’ I want for her to be strong and healthy and develop these good habits while she’s still young.”

Instilling healthy habits in her granddaughter Sydney, 16, is especially important for Joyce, who wasn’t always as careful about what she ate. Joyce was in her mid-40s when she was diagnosed with osteopenia, a condition characterized by severe bone loss, the precursor to osteoporosis. For Joyce, an avid cyclist, the diagnosis was something of a wake-up call.

“It was a shock, because I had been bicycling for years and I thought I was really healthy,” Joyce recalls. “But in reality, my mindset was to be thin, not healthy. It was a major turnaround in the way I ate—instead of always striving to be thin, I realized that I needed to nourish my body with the right things.”

Inspired to reverse her bone loss and rebuild bone strength, Joyce made over her diet, bumped up her strength training and diligently took calcium and Vitamin D supplements. In time, her efforts paid off, and her bone density levels slowly began to improve.

Years later, Joyce is grateful that she has the strength and energy to continue doing the things she loves—running half-marathons for breast cancer, embarking on 40-mile bike rides, going whitewater rafting and much more. Not only does she feel great, Joyce looks great, too. People often think she’s half her age. Rather than making her complacent, however, the compliments only fuel Joyce’s motivation to stay on track. “I don’t want to lose what I’ve gained—the muscle tone, the way I look,” she says.

And Joyce doesn’t plan on slowing down anytime soon: “As long as you exercise and eat right, you can do anything you put your mind to—no matter your age. It’s limitless,” she says, adding that she plans on taking surfing lessons in the near future.

For others out there who are hesitant to try something new, it’s never too late to start, Joyce says. “It doesn’t matter how old you are. Start small—take a walk every day to build strength, and work your way up from there,” she advises. But no matter what, don’t be a bystander. “If you see something that interests you, jump right in and do it! I think that’s important. If you just sit there, you’re losing out on all the fun.”