By Ernst Lamothe Jr.
In the foundation of the human body, bones and joints remain a critical structure for our bodies. Many times people overlook the value of making sure their skeletal system is strong. Maintaining healthy bones requires more than just a doctor’s visit once in a while.
“It is critical that your bones and joints stay healthy and functional as you age. If they begin deteriorating, it will be difficult to maintain your independence and control the choices you want for your life,” said David Grimm, an orthopedic surgeon and one of the partners at Canandaigua Orthopaedic Associates, which operates under the umbrella of Rochester Regional Health. “It will greatly affect how you spend your time and your ability to craft your aging process.”
Grimm offers five ways to keep healthy bones and joints.
“After the age of 21, your skeleton can no longer produce additional bone mass. This means that for the rest of your life, you are simply trying to decrease the rate at which you naturally lose bone,” he said.
1. Reduce weight
Maintaining a healthy weight enables individuals to live active lives, avoid problematic medical conditions and prevent added pressure on bones and joints.
“It is well documented that reducing weight decreases the load forces delivered to your joint cartilage. Extra body weight can significantly accelerate the arthritic process,” said Grimm. “The force you place on your joints can measure up to six times your body weight. Think of the impact this has on your joints and the damage that can be caused to the cartilage with activities as common as navigating stairs or rising from a seated position.”
He stresses the impact of just slightly reducing your weight.
“I inform my patients that any amount of weight loss is beneficial. For example, a hard-earned weight loss of just five pounds removes 30 pounds of force from your joints!” said Grimm. “We have no method of reliably healing or adding joint cartilage once it is significantly damaged. The only surgical option is to remove it entirely and replace it with metal and plastic components — in other words, a joint replacement.”
2. Increase motion
Significant data exists stating regular motion reduces stiffness and increases flexibility. Whether you choose low impact exercising such as cycling or walking or more strenuous workouts like running, dancing or tennis, moving the body on a regular basis can help prevent weak bones.
“If you keep the body active and in motion, you will decrease stiffness and weakness, both of which can lead to injuries,” Grimm added. “Moving the body helps to lubricate the joints and can have a significant impact on muscle and bone strength.”
And because of increasing office jobs, many times people are sedentary throughout their work day.
“I would certainly recommend getting up frequently throughout the day and walking in place if you have a job that requires extended sitting.” he added.
3. Stretching and balance make a difference
Stretching will help you improve your range of motion, your athletic performance and decrease your risk of injury. Better flexibility enables your muscles to work most effectively because it increases blood flow to the muscles. “There are plenty of activities that emphasize balance and stretching exercises such as yoga, Pilates, and tai chi that are wonderful for motion,” said Grimm. “We know that flexibility, strength, balance and weight-bearing exercise are keys to preventing injury.”
4. Eliminate hazards
Smoking rates in the U.S. have declined in recent decades. However, about 15.5% of the population — or about 37.8 million adults — smoke cigarettes, according to the latest numbers from Centers for Disease Control. And with the popularity of e-cigarettes, which are battery-operated devices that people use to inhale an aerosol that typically contains nicotine, the issue is not going away. Smoking is an issue that leads to disease and disability and harms nearly every organ of the body and is the leading cause of preventable death.
“Smoking has a number of negative effects on the skeleton and joints. It decreases the blood supply to bones and nicotine poisons the cells that form bones,” said Grimm. “It decreases the absorption of calcium and breaks down estrogen faster in women.”
Grimm also said reducing alcohol consumption can be helpful in maintaining maximum bone mass.
5. Eat right
Proper nutrition and a well-balanced diet are key to healthy bones and joints. Grimm recommends whole grains, calcium-rich foods such as milk and broccoli, fruits, vegetables, and lean meats. He also advises that avoiding processed foods with large amounts of refined sugars can be beneficial.
“The amounts of added sugar and carbohydrates in a typical American diet, make it easy to gain weight and jeopardize the health of your joints. The rate of Type 2 diabetes is rising even in children, and this will certainly have significant implications for the health of their bones and joints as they age,” Grimms added.