BONE UP ON BONE HEALTH
In the month of October, when you see a Halloween skeleton, do you think of "A" monster movies, or "B" getting enough calcium and weight-bearing exercises? Let’s make that a big “B” for bones! October is the month of World Arthritis Day (12th), World Spine Day (16th), World Trauma Day (17th) and World Osteoporosis Day (20th). Bone and Joint Action Week is held October 12-20 with activities focused on disorders including arthritis, back pain, osteoporosis and trauma. Why the focus on bones in October? We don’t know the answer to that question – but we do know a thing or two about building bone strength!
FITNESS TIPS FOR STRONG BONES
In a previous article, we offered tips on nutrition for bone health. While nutrition is important for strong healthy bones, so is exercise.
THESE ARE GREAT ACTIVITIES FOR BONE
STRENGTH – TRY THEM ALL!
- Brisk Walking. Yeah! We love to walk and a study of nurses found that walking four hours a week gave them a 41% lower risk of hip fractures, compared to walking less than an hour a week. Brisk walking is best. Walk alone, or with other people.
- Dancing. Any kind of dance and almost anywhere (maybe not in the grocery aisle though…) Try salsa, samba, Lindy hop, rhumba, East coast swing, foxtrot or the tango.
- Golf. If you can afford the green fees, and you skip the golf cart, golf is great. All that walking and chasing balls lost in the rough, means plenty of work for your hips and spine. Shouldering your golf bag is a great upper-body workout as well.
- Hiking. Carry a backpack and it’s even better. The up and down motion in hilly terrain is especially good for your hips.
- Racquet Sports. Tennis, squash, racquetball and paddle tennis can up your bone density. The twisting motions help with balance and hip strength.
- Strength Training. We’ve said this before, but it bears repeating. Lifting weights or using weight machines work both your muscles and your bones. According to the Surgeon General, strength training at least twice a week is needed to stimulate bone growth.
- Tai Chi. These are the slow, graceful moves you’ve seen in movies. You can do them at home or in a group. Postmenopausal women who did 45 minutes of tai chi a day, five days a week for a year, enjoyed a rate of bone loss up to three-and-a-half times slower than the non-tai-chi group.
- Yoga. If you think yoga is for wimps – you’re wrong! It’s a great workout no matter what condition your condition is in. A study reported an increase in bone mineral density in the spine for women who did yoga regularly. Like tai chi, you can do yoga by yourself, or with a group.
BONE HEALTH WARNING SIGNS
About 54% of the U.S. population over the age of 18 are affected by musculoskeletal (bone and joint) conditions, according to the United States Bone and Joint Initiative. Joint and bone pain is not only felt in the body, but also in the wallet when work is missed, or employment is impossible due to pain. Here are some risk factors for weak or thinning bones.
- You’ve had more than one fracture in the past two years, or you’ve had a fracture that seemed unusually severe for the circumstances. Get a bone density test (DXA scan) to check your status.
- You take prednisone or other corticosteroids to treat an autoimmune condition. Make certain your doctor is monitoring your bone density, and balancing overall health with bone health.
- You smoke. Smoking has a high statistical correlation with osteoporosis. Quit smoking for this and many other reasons.
- You drink more than two alcoholic drinks a day. Alcohol leaches calcium, magnesium and other minerals from your bones. Cut back on alcohol to no more than two per day.
- You’re lactose intolerant or have other reasons for not drinking milk. Milk is a bone-builder. Replace milk with soy or rice milk that’s been fortified with calcium and vitamin D.
- You’ve struggled with an eating disorder. Anything that lowers estrogen levels (missing periods) interferes with bone building. Make sure you mention this to your doctor so he or she can help you bring the anorexia or bulimia under control. Also, be sure to drink calcium and vitamin D-fortified milk.
- You have a first- or second-degree relative who had osteoporosis before the age of 50 or before menopause. Blue eyes are hereditary and osteoporosis can also be transmitted genetically. If you had relatives who suffered from osteoporosis, tell your doctor and request a bone scan.
- You have receding gums. Ask your dentist for a copy of your standard panoramic x-rays during your dentist visit. If your dentist sees bone loss, share the information with your doctor.
- You have decreased grip strength. If you can’t grip a stair hand railing, you’re more likely to fall. Exercises can increase your hand strength.
- You have cramps and muscle aches. Leg cramps that occur at night are often a signal that your calcium, magnesium or potassium blood levels have dropped too low during the night. Calcium from food, and calcium supplements can help this condition.
WHEN TO CALL THE DOCTOR
Bone is a living tissue, which is constantly being broken down and rebuilt. One of the most common places for prostate or breast cancer to spread is to the bone (comprising 65-75% of those with advanced cancer). The loss of living bone tissue makes bones fragile and more likely to break. Make a doctor appointment if:
As you head into October, keep in mind that bone-building in young adults takes three to four months. It may take a lot longer if you have osteoporosis or are older. So you won’t be seeing big changes on any bone density tests after your first week of working out. Bones change slowly -- but they do change. Don’t give up.
- You have bone pain. Bone pain is a major warning sign of cancer that has spread. Cancer in the bones can also cause fractures and hypercalcemia (too much calcium in the bloodstream) with can cause constipation, confusion, dehydration, nausea or vomiting and memory loss or depression.
- You’re shrinking. Losing height is common as we age. If you’re shrinking – talk to your doctor about your bone health.