Ann Richards' Osteoporosis Campaign

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It's estimated that half of all women over the age of 50 will break a bone due to osteoporosis in their lifetime. And a frightening number will die of that disease.

Former Texas Governor Ann Richards recently learned she has osteoporosis. Instead of letting it get the better of her, she's putting up a fight by crisscrossing the country with a message of strength and hope. She spoke to CBS News Early Show Anchor Bryant Gumbel about her campaign against osteoporosis.

Richards suspected she had osteoporosis, which means porous bone, because her mother had it.

"I watched my mother die, watched her literally break off into pieces. She broke her arm, her hip. And one thing after another. And I said, 'God, Mom's bones are just brittle.' She started getting a hump."

Richardson, worried that she would end up like that too, went to the doctor.

"I think you ought to test my bone density," she told him. "I probably have osteoporosis."

"They checked it and I did. So I really...started lifting weights, working out at the gym," she added.

She also takes medication and changed her diet, cutting down on fats and carbohydrates and eating more protein and vegetables.

"People should talk to their doctor and say, 'test my bones. Make sure. If I have osteoporosis, I need to know what to do about it.' "

Richardson says people can beat the disease.

"I think I'm stronger than I've ever been in my life and I'm 67 years old," she said.

As Richardson crosses the country, she tells women if they lead a healthy lifestyle, take medication and get exercise. "You don't have to be a victim," she said.

Fighting the onset of osteoporosis should begin in childhood. Currently, half of all children under age 5 don't get enough calcium. In older children, calcium intake drops even further.

"I will never walk the way my mother walked. I will never have that hump. I don't want my kids to remember my last years the way I remember Mama's."

She adds that the benefits are not just for her. It's also "for those people who love me and care about me. I don't want them to have to take care of me."

Richards has something to say about politics as well. It was Richardson who, at the 1988 Democratic Convention, said about Vice President Bush, "Poor George, he was born with a silver spoon in his mouth."

When Governor George W. Bush succeeded her in the Texas governor mansion, she had a feeling then that he would run for president.

"When he was elected I said, 'This guy wants to be president, for one reason or another. He probably will be.' "

Gumbel asked Richards if she saw any evidence of Bush bringing forces together in Texas.

"He worked very hard on the things he cared about. There were an awful lot of things he didn't care anything about," she said. "And as a consequence, it had to be done by others if it was done at all."

Sh thinks Vice President Gore should continue fighting for the recounts.

"I have an opinion. It's not based on anything except, watch these guys operate. If Al Gore gets his votes counted, if the votes that were legally cast on election day in Florida are counted, Al Gore will be president," she said.