Yes, we have had a lot to worry about lately. And as you read this, I hope you are well. Statistically, someone reading this either has had COVID or has a friend or relative that does. Numbers are hard to ignore. So I am wearing my mask faithfully, knowing that prevention is the only way to prevent others from contacting the virus. We will prevail.
BUT HOW TO?
Well today it was 45 degrees, sunny, warm enough for my husband and I to take a long walk in our neighborhood. We used to live in Westlake Village, California, where our walks took us toward views of the low hills of the Santa Monica mountains. If we were really feeling adventurous, we would drive to locations where the hills were higher, the views even more spectacular and our bodies covered in sweat on our return.
Walking, hiking is so good for us. It’s a treat for our souls and for our bodies, and in some ways even more so for females.
Bone health is important for both men and women. But as we age we often take it for granted. Our bodies are subtly or not so subtly changing and the statistics for bone breaks increase. Friends break a wrist, an ankle, a leg. Everyone wants to avoid this; no one wants appointments to the local orthopedist or physical therapist to fill your calendar.
Preserving bone, preventing falls and their subsequent breaks is crucial to overall health. Strong dense bones insure good posture, physical strength for work and activities, and good balance. A strong skeletal frame directly impacts physical appearance. People with healthy bones feel and look youthful. Bone health also increases psychological health. You can do more, embrace life without loss of balance, a bad fall and a debilitating bone break.
KEYS TO KEEPING BONE STRONG:
- a diet rich in calcium; calcium supplements; and Vitamin D from sun exposure for calcium absorption;
- avoiding the negative impact of smoking and alcohol; seeking out a good physician who can evaluate you for osteoporosis and how to stop or prevent its growth;
Osteoporosis is a disease of the bone that affects almost half of men or women over the age of 75, though women are five times more likely to develop the disease. Women have thinner and smaller bones to begin with and after menopause, usually around age 50, they lose bone mass as their bodies no longer produce estrogen, a bone-protecting hormone.
Bone is living tissue that throughout life goes through the process of constant formation (new bone is formed) and resorption (old bone is broken down). Aging changes the process in both men and women. More bone is lost then new is formed. The skeleton slowly declines. Osteoporosis literally means “porous bones;” the word describes bones that have lost an excessive amount of protein and mineral content—especially calcium. Bone mass and bone strength have decreased. Your bones become vulnerable to breaks.
WHERE WE WERE AND WHERE WE ARE NOW…
Previously it was assumed that this bone aging process could not be stopped. Our grandparents, and possibly our mothers and grandmothers, suffered height loss because of compression fractures in their vertebrae. These fractures often led to the formation of an abnormal kyphosis or dowager hump on the upper back. Debilitating hip and leg breaks often meant the duration of life was spent in a wheel chair.
Now post-menapausal women have options to keep bone strong and avoid the bone loss of previous generations. Calcium in the diet and weight-bearing exercise can help ward off osteoporosis. Bone density scans are used to check for osteopenia—the early stage of osteoporosis. Healthcare providers recommend the right amount of calcium supplements and stress diets rich in calcium and other minerals. For people who are at great risk for the disease or have rapidly advancing bone loss, providers often prescribe bisphosphonate medications like BonivaR and FosamaxR that can slow or stop the progression of osteoporosis.
THE GUYS TOO…
Men also need to be aware that by the age of 65 or 70 they are losing bone at the same rate as women. Though osteoporosis is often considered a woman’s problem, there are 2 million men in the United States with this disease. (an older statistic that could have increased)
The key is to keep bone strong by stimulating new bone growth. Any activity that puts increased stress on your bones, making your bones and muscles work against gravity (weight-bearing exercise) will help you build healthy bone. So are you doing any of these:
Walking, race walking, weight-vest walking, jogging, running
Aerobics, step aerobics
Cycling, if you can increase the resistance as some gym machines allow
Dancing, especially contra dancing, tap-dancing, polka and other folk dances that involve stomping and hopping
Soccer, basketball, tennis, volleyball, softball, pickle ball
Gymnastics, Weightlifting, Jumping rope, Martial arts, Bowling, Yoga, Pilates
Housework and yardwork: cleaning, gardening, shoveling snow!
THE BENEFITS OF YOGA
Paula Secker, an instructor of Anusara-Inspired Yoga, explains that the weight of your own body is utilized to create this weight-bearing exercise. Bones are strengthened as muscles of the body pull, hug, and shorten bone to achieve yoga poses keeping bone strong. Secker mentions popular yoga poses like downward facing dog and plank for hip, arm and leg bone strengthening. All standing yoga poses work the legs, and arm-balancing poses strengthen the upper body, which is often weak in women.
She emphasizes an additional benefit of yoga: it enlivens, opens and increases the energy of the body and body fluids like blood. Fluids enervate the entire body, working to increase the rate of bone cell production.
She also stresses that loss of balance is a great concern as people age—leg muscles weaken and other systems like vision, nerves and body receptors don’t supply the right signals to the brain. Once again Secker recommends yoga, as many poses require balance, and repetition and mastery is just what the brain needs to reestablish stability.
Yoga helps achieve body awareness and good posture. Poses require constant realigning of the body, particularly how the head sits on the shoulders. This fights forward head posture, a sign of aging, which is often exacerbated by computer work and weak musculature.
Do you sit at a computer often, like I do?
Secker stresses that there is a relationship between proper positioning of the head and the straightening of the torso and body core. Aligning the head to center position automatically tones the core and torso. Practice this when driving, imagining a cosmic head rest holding your head upright and keeping your body straight.
And make sure you add weight-bearing activity to your schedule every day. For starters—take the stairs!
So, thanks for reading….and I found this “creative stuff” –don’t know when or why I wrote it…
There’s a bar at one end of the room with cold reflecting counters and stacks of shiny glasses, donuts and sweet rolls, chocolate candies. I say to myself: “Everything but illicit sex.”
Also: But then I am walking around in my tight pants that are even tighter after the weekend. And if I were in a photo in some newspaper, the caption would read, “Woman about to go on a diet.” or woman should be exercising and going on a diet.
How is your body doing with Covid, and being indoors so much???