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Bone and Joint Health

Thursday, October 8, 2015

“Oh, my aching back”…”ouch, my feet hurt”…”ugh, I fell and broke my arm.”  Any of these sound familiar?  If statistics run true, at least half of you are saying yes right now.  Conditions such as arthritis, back and neck pain, fractures, and osteoporosis affect 1 in 2 (126.6 million) US adults, twice the rate of chronic heart and lung conditions.  And according to the United States Bone and Joint Initiative, those numbers are predicted to increase greatly due to increasing life expectancy.  In fact, 1 in 3 people (33%) of people over the age of 18 required medical care for a musculoskeletal (bone or joint) condition in each of the years 2009 to 2011, a 19% increase over the last decade.   In addition, the U.S. Surgeon General’s Report on Bone Health and Osteoporosis states that by the year 2020, half of all persons older than age 50 will be at risk for fractures related to osteoporosis and low-bone mass. 
The costs associated with bone and joint conditions are two-fold:  the cost to everyday living and the cost to the economy.  Musculoskeletal conditions have a lower mortality rate than other chronic diseases but they do restrict daily living activities, increase lost work days, and cause significant disability.  Treatment and lost wage costs associated with musculoskeletal diseases in the U.S. alone were estimated at $874 billion in 2009 to 2011 - equal to almost 6 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP).
The good news is that a healthy lifestyle will often lead to good bone and joint health.  There are some simple steps that anyone regardless of age, can take to improve their musculoskeletal condition.  
The Cleveland clinic recommends the following for optimal bone health:
Eat calcium-rich foods.
Calcium is key to having strong bones.  Dairy products, milk, leafy green vegetables, soybeans, and salmon all contain calcium.  Children, ages 9 to 18, need more calcium because their bodies are growing.  They generally need about 1,300 milligrams per day.  Men and women over 50 and postmenopausal women also need a higher amount of calcium, usually 1,200 to 1,500 milligrams daily.  If you have problems digesting lactose, which is in dairy products, consult your physician about taking a calcium supplement. 
Add D to your day.
Individuals need vitamin D to help their bodies absorb calcium from the gastrointestinal tract and improve bone health.   “To help absorb calcium, most adults need 1,000 to 2,000 IU of vitamin D daily”, says Andrea Sikon, MD, Chair of Internal Medicine and staff member at the Cleveland Clinic.  “Combined calcium-vitamin D pills usually do not meet this requirement. And most of us who live north of Atlanta do not get enough vitamin D the old-fashioned way — from the sun.” Taking a vitamin D supplement will ensure you meet your daily needs.  Check with your physician to determine the right amount for your body and age. 
Start weight-bearing and strength building exercises.  
Building strong bones begins with daily exercise of at least 60 minutes for children and 30 minutes for adults.  The best types of exercises for bone and joint health are weight bearing and strength building.  Examples of weight bearing exercises include running, walking, hiking, stair climbing, dancing, and aerobics.  Examples of strength building exercises include weight lifting, calisthenics, and resistance bands and machines.  
Don’t smoke, and don’t drink excessively. 
Loss of bone mineral density is associated with tobacco use and excessive alcohol consumption.  If you smoke, look into a program to help you quit. If you drink, stick to no more than one libation a day, advises Dr. Sikon of  the Cleveland Clinic.  
Get your bone mineral density tested.
Doctors can get a quick and painless “snapshot” of bone health using a simple X-ray test called DXA. This test measures bone mineral density and helps determine risks of osteoporosis and fracture. Specialists recommend testing for women within two years of menopause. Earlier tests are recommended for men and women with certain diseases and for those taking medications that increase risk, such as long-term steroid therapy.
Consider medication 
Perimenopausal women may consider hormone therapy to increase waning estrogen levels, which are linked to bone loss. And women and men diagnosed with osteopenia or osteoporosis can take various medications to prevent dangerous hip and spine fractures. Talk to your doctor about your risk and medical options.  
Good bone and joint health is important for an active lifestyle from childhood through the senior years.  The most critical components to musculoskeletal condition are a diet rich in calcium and vitamin D and daily weight bearing and muscle strengthening exercise.  And remember, it is never too early or too late to get started!  Consult your physician before starting a new exercise routine or taking supplements.   
For more information about bone and joint health, visit the United States Bone and Joint Initiative at or the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin diseases at    
Lorraine Wichtowski is a community health educator at Noyes Health in Dansville.  If you have questions or suggestions for future articles she can be reached at or 585-335-4327.  

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