Taking care of dem bones

Dem bonesMy last post was triggered by my husband Vito being diagnosed with Deep Vein Thrombosis. Since then (last Friday, to be exact), my lovely Mum has fallen and fractured the neck of her femur. She’s had an operation and is now going through painful physiotherapy and rehabilitation.

My mum’s 85 and has become very frail recently, so bone fragility was to be expected. I’d always thought that the sequence of events was: old age>weak bones and frailty>fall>breaks and fractures. But it turns out that if you have osteoporosis, your bones sometimes simply crumble (this can happen to your spine) or break by themselves, as a result of a twisting movement, say. So it can be the bone breaking that causes the fall. Alarming, isn’t it?

Osteoporosis can also lead to tooth loss. An article by Carole Palmer, a professor at Tufts University School of Dental Medicine, points out that:

Teeth are held in the jaw by the face bone, which can also be affected by osteoporosis. ‘So, the jaw can also suffer the consequences of a diet lacking essential nutrients such as calcium and vitamins D and K’.

Diet is important for bone health: too much salt, alcohol, caffein or protein (protein??? who knew?) can weaken your bones. Physical activity is beneficial:

Bones get stronger when you use them. The best way to strengthen them is to do at least five hours of ‘weight-bearing’ exercise a week. This includes walking, running, dancing, golf, tennis or netball. It doesn’t include cycling or swimming (although swimming is good for staying flexible).
Bones also benefit if you lift and carry things. Weight training is ideal, but carrying shopping, gardening and housework all count.

So along with all our feet paddling, ankle circling and buttock clenching to keep our circulation – and veins – healthy, those of us with sedentary jobs should be exercising for our bone health too. But I’ll skip the housework and carrying shopping (unless it’s clothes, shoes and other goodies), thanks.

Here are some useful tips on maintaining “Strong bones at every age” (thank you yet again, NHS).

Photo of dinosaur bones at the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia, courtesy of Jan’s Cat (thank you, Felix!)

By Marian Dougan

2 Responses

  1. I hadn’t realised until I broke my finger last year (insignificant compared with your family’s problems, Marian) that any bone break triggers an appointment to at the hospital to check for osteoporosis. I asked the doctor at the hospital why only if you break something can you have a check. She indicated that if you wanted to be checked and you went through your doctor you probably could have this done. Worth doing if you have any concerns, to put your mind at rest.

  2. That’s good to know, Ruth. It turns out osteoporosis isn’t just an “old ladies'” problem – it can affect young people and men too. Young girls following strict slimming diets, for example, can be affected. So a check-up sounds like a good idea for lots of us.

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