Did you know that your bones are alive? We might not think of them that way—but to keep themselves strong and usable, our bones are always changing. As you get older, your bones may be at increased risk for osteoporosis (oss-tee-oh-pore-OH-sis), when the bones become weak, fragile and more likely to break. And once they break, they take longer to heal. This can be both painful and expensive.
According to National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, more than 40 million people in the United States either already have osteoporosis or are at high risk due to low bone mass
The Silent Disease
Osteoporosis is a “silent” disease. You may not realize you have it until a sudden strain, twist or fall causes a broken bone or fracture. With osteoporosis, even a minor tumble can be serious, requiring surgery and hospitalization.
If you have osteoporosis, you can get a broken bone even though you haven’t fallen—by shoveling snow, for example. A spinal fracture, a break in one of the small bones in your back, may be subtle and go unnoticed. Or it may cause back pain, which you shouldn’t ignore. Research shows that childhood is the best time to build up bone tissue. Most bone is built by age 18 in girls and 20 in boys.
Healthy Lifestyle Habits = Healthy Bones
You can build and protect your bones with healthy lifestyle habits:
Start With A Well-Balanced Diet Rich In Calcium And Vitamin D
Most of our bone is made of a rigid protein framework. Calcium (a mineral) adds strength and hardens that framework. Vitamin D helps the intestine absorb calcium.
Calcium is found in many foods, but the most common source for Americans is milk and other dairy products. One 8-ounce glass of milk provides about one-third of the recommended intake for younger children and about one-fourth of the recommended intake for teens.
Your body makes vitamin D in the skin when you’re out in the sun. Some people get all they need from sunlight, but others need to take vitamin D pills. Talk to your doctor to find out how much calcium and vitamin D you should get each day.
Get Regular Physical Activity
Physical activity is also important for building bone strength. The more work bones do, the stronger they get. That’s why it’s so important for kids to run and play.
There is good evidence that you can build the best skeleton by doing physical activity in childhood: jumping rope, playing basketball and running around. But no matter what your age, it’s never too late to promote bone health. Increase your load bearing exercise, like walking, and make good food choices, rich in calcium and vitamin D.
Bone Health: Women Take Special Note
Women are more likely to have osteoporosis and related fractures, particularly Caucasian and Asian women. Osteoporosis becomes more common as you get older. Low body weight can also increase your risk. And so can certain medications (such as steroids) and certain diseases and conditions (such as anorexia nervosa, rheumatoid arthritis, gastrointestinal diseases, thyroid disease and depression).
It’s recommended that all women over the age of 65 should have a bone mineral density test 1. The test uses a tiny amount of radiation to look at how dense your bones are. It isn’t painful, and there’s usually no need to undress.
So ask your doctor about osteoporosis. Remember that osteoporosis remains silent—until there’s a fracture. A big red flag is when a person over age 50 has a fracture of any kind. If you do have osteoporosis, medications can help.
Your bones are so important. They support you and allow you to move. They protect your heart, lungs and brain from injury. They’re a storehouse for vital minerals you need to live. Your bones take care of you in so many ways. Learn to take care of them.
Research shows that there are several ways to take care of your bones:
- Get enough calcium and vitamin D in your diet at every age.
- Be physically active.
- Reduce hazards in your home that could increase your risk of falling.
- Talk with your doctor about medicines you are taking that could increase your risk for osteoporosis.
- If you are over 50 and break a bone, ask your doctor to screen you for osteoporosis.
Article partially based on material from Wellness Council of America
- In older hip fracture patients, surgical delay of more than 48 hours increases mortality (stonehearthnewsletters.com)
- 30 per cent of women don’t even pick up new osteoporosis drug prescriptions (stonehearthnewsletters.com)
- NIM Senior Health http://nihseniorhealth.gov/osteoporosis/warningsignsanddiagnosis/01.html ↩
At first you barely notice the changes. Reaching more often for your glasses to see up close, or having more trouble adjusting to glaring lights or reading when the light is dim. You may even have put on blue socks thinking they were black. These are some of the normal changes to your eyes and vision as you age.
As more baby boomers head toward retirement and beyond, scientists expect the number of people with age-related eye problems to rise sharply. NOT all age-related changes to your eyes can be prevented, but you can take steps to protect your vision and reduce your risk for serious eye disease in the future. Effective treatments are now available for many disorders that may lead to blindness or visual impairment. You can also learn how to make the most of the vision you have by understanding simple eye health.
Signs Of Eye Aging
The clear, curved lens at the front of your eye may be one of the first parts of your eyes to show signs of age. The lens bends to focus light and form images on the retina at the back of your eye. This flexibility lets you see at different distances—up close or far away. But the lens hardens with age. The change may begin as early as your 20s, but it can come so gradually it may take decades to notice.
Eventually, age-related stiffening and clouding of the lens affects just about everyone. You’ll have trouble focusing on up-close objects, a condition called presbyopia. Anyone over age 35 is at risk for presbyopia. Cloudy areas in the lens, called cataracts, are another common eye problem that comes with age. More than 22 million Americans have cataracts. By age 80, more than half of us will have had them. Some cataracts stay small and have little effect on eyesight, but others become large and interfere with vision. Symptoms include:
- Faded color vision
- Difficulty seeing well at night
- Lights that seem too bright
There are no specific steps to prevent cataracts, but tobacco use and exposure to sunlight raise your risk of developing them. Cataract surgery is a safe and common treatment that can restore good vision.
The passage of time can also weaken the tiny muscles that control your eye’s pupil size. The pupil becomes smaller and less responsive to changes in light. That’s why people in their 60s need three times more light for comfortable reading than those in their 20s. Smaller pupils make it more difficult to see at night.
Think You Don’t Need An Eye Exam? Think Again!
If you’re not convinced you should have regular eye exams, consider that some of the more serious age-related eye diseases—like glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and diabetic eye disease—may have no warning signs or symptoms in their early stages.
A Quick Look At Eye Diseases
Glaucoma comes from increased fluid pressure inside the eye that damages the optic nerve. Glaucoma can slowly steal your peripheral vision. You may not notice it until it’s advanced. It can be treated with prescription eye drops, lasers or surgery. If not treated, however, it can lead to vision loss and blindness.
Age-Related Macular Degeneration
AMD causes gradual loss of vision in the center of your eyesight and is the leading cause of blindness in Americans over age 65. Scientists have found that people who eat diets rich in green, leafy vegetables—such as kale and spinach—or fish are less likely to have advanced AMD.
Diabetic Eye Disease
Diabetic eye disease, another leading cause of blindness, can damage the tiny blood vessels inside the retina. Keeping your blood sugar under control can help prevent or slow the problem.
The only way to detect these serious eye diseases before they cause vision loss or blindness is through a comprehensive dilated eye exam. Your eye care professional will put drops in your eyes to enlarge, or dilate, the pupils and then look for signs of disease. Having regular comprehensive eye care gives your doctor a chance to identify a problem very early on and then treat it. Annual eye exams are especially important if you have diabetes.
- Have a comprehensive eye exam each year after age 50.
- Stop smoking.
- Eat a diet rich in green, leafy vegetables and fish.
- Maintain normal blood pressure.
- Control diabetes if you have it.
- Wear sunglasses and a brimmed hat any time you’re outside in bright sunshine.
- Wear protective eyewear when playing sports or doing work around the house that may cause eye injury.
Article partially based on material from Wellness Council of America
- Eye health, AMD, and nutrition: some new research (stonehearthnewsletters.com)
- Ophthalmologists urge early diagnosis and treatment of age-related macular degeneration (sciencedaily.com)
- Here’s Looking at You (well-beingblog.com)
In 2011 the National Institutes of Health (NIH) asked the National Research Council and the Institute of Medicine to convene a panel of experts to investigate potential reasons for the U.S. health disadvantage and to assess its larger implications. Data from 17 industrial countries in Western Europe, Australia, Japan, Canada, and the U.S. was examined. This study found that the life expectancy of American men ranked last at 75.6 and American women ranked 16th at 80.7 (second to last) – the mortality gap.
Although Americans’ life expectancy and health have improved over the past century, these gains have lagged behind those in other high-income countries. This health disadvantage prevails even though the United States spends far more per person on health care than any other nation
The U.S. health disadvantage has multiple causes and involves some combination of inadequate health care, unhealthy behaviors, adverse economic and social conditions, and environmental factors, as well as public policies and social values that shape those conditions.
The U.S. health disadvantage cannot be fully explained by the health disparities that exist among people who are uninsured or poor, as important as these issues are. Several studies are now suggesting that even advantaged Americans— those who are white, insured, college-educated, or upper income—are in worse health than similar people in other countries.
There is some good news coming from this study. Until roughly age 75, men and women in the United States perform poorly, ranking last or close to last in every age group. However, after age 75, the U.S. rankings improve dramatically until men and women experience the second lowest death rates in the age group 95-99. In short, if you make it to 75 in a healthy state you may have many years still ahead of you.
The health disadvantage carries with it some serious economic consequences. Shorter lives and poorer health in the United States will ultimately harm the nation’s economy as health care costs rise and the workforce remains less healthy than that of other high-income countries. Additionally, there is the potential effect on national security due to declining public health and increasing health care costs.
The tragedy is not that the United States is losing a contest with other countries but that Americans are dying and suffering from illness and injury at rates that are demonstrably unnecessary.
WIFM You Ask
What this means to each of us is that we need to begin adopting a healthy lifestyle. We need to eat healthier. We need to move more. We need to pay attention to how our actions today affect our futures – futures with spent enjoying our adult children, our grandchildren, and a long, healthy, and happy life with our spouses. Rather than holding down the bottom rungs of the longevity scale, we as Americans need to start climbing out of the hole we have dug for ourselves. Stand up America, get healthy and, as Spock would say, live long and prosper.
Ho, Jessica Y. “International Comparisons of U.S. Mortality.” Presented at the Population Association of America Annual Meeting, San Francisco, May 2012
Kemp CB. Public Health in the Age of Health Care Reform. Prev Chronic Dis 2012;9:120151. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5888/pcd9.120151
U.S. Health in International Perspective: Shorter Lives, Poorer Health – Institute of Medicine. (n.d.). Retrieved March 12, 2013, from http://www.iom.edu/Reports/2013/US-Health-in-International-Perspective-Shorter-Lives-Poorer-Health.aspx
World Mortality Report 2011 – the United Nations. ST/ESA/SER.A/324. Department of Economic and Social Affairs. Population Division. United Nations. New York, 2012
I recently had a scary moment in my life that I feel is important enough to share here. I woke one morning to what appeared to me to be a snowstorm in my right eye. It reminded me of driving in a snowstorm at night – hundreds of snowflakes rushing at me at high speed as I drove through the snow. But this storm was in reverse or negative – black snow rather than white and taking place inside my eye.
I knew that what I was seeing was a larger than normal number of floaters in my eye. I’m sure you are familiar with eye floaters – those sometimes annoying, moving spots that appear in your field of vision. They may appear as black or gray dots, squiggly lines, threadlike strands, or cobwebs. The really maddening thing about them is they seem to move around when you blink and place themselves directly in your field of vision. Floaters seem to become more common as we age but I had never experienced so many at one time before.
And being a typical human being, I mostly ignored them.
“Around age 35 is when our muscle mass and resting metabolism starts to decrease. When this happens our bodies require more, not less exercise to manage our caloric intake. When this starts to happen, we can eat the same things, do the same things and may gain 3 pounds a year. That’s 30 pounds in a decade,” he said.
Dr. Veselik said the best workout program balances heart healthy exercise, strength training, and flexibility. He recommends an hour of cardiovascular exercise 4 days a week, 2 days of strength training for 30 minutes, and balance and flexibility exercises such as stretching, yoga or pilates, 1 to 2 times a week.
In your 50s:
- Muscle and joint aches and pains start becoming more apparent, so get creative about how to keep up cardiovascular exercise that is easy on the joints but gets the heart rate up (hint: swimming, biking, or running on softer surfaces).
- Cardiovascular exercise also helps to fight many of the most common and deadly medical concerns, including heart disease, asthma, and COPD.
- Don’t go from doing nothing to running a marathon. Talk to your doctor, ask about risk factors, and together create a plan that’s right for you.
- If back pain arises, protect your back by building strong core muscles and make sure you are lifting heavy objects correctly.
In your 60s:
- Balance and strength should be a major focus. Many people are scared of breaking a hip, which can limit independence.
- Bones aren’t as strong and both men and women become more prone to osteoporosis.
- Add balance and leg strengthening exercises to increase flexibility as well as balance to help prevent accidental falls. Weight-bearing exercise is crucial to bone health and keeping bone density strong.
- If arthritis develops at this age, exercise can help you cope, especially swimming or aquatic classes.
- Walking is a great form of exercise. Just make sure you get your heart rate up.
In your 70s and beyond:
- To combat seniors’ biggest worry, dementia, know that exercise is the only thing that is proven to prevent Alzheimer’s. And many of the major risk factors for dementia, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes can be countered with exercise.
Couple exercise with healthful eating and other healthy habits, and you’ll be on the track to a better quality of life, no matter what your age.
Article partially based on material from Health-e headlines™
Health-care in America is Broken! It’s expensive, it’s unfair, it’s dangerous, it’s corrupt, it’s inefficient. My profession wants you to be sick for one reason: We can send you a bill.” At least that what 81-year-old geriatrician, Stanford University professor, author, and marathon runner, Dr. Walter Bortz, told an audience at the University of California-San Francisco.
Medicine’s mission, Bortz says, should be the assertion and assurance of human potential. Yet, he says “The threat to the world is chronic disease. It’s going to bring the world to its knees, and we can’t afford it.”
In spite of our broken health-care system, Bortz believes that it’s biologically possible for everyone to become centenarians without major ill-health or disability.
Bortz plans to be one of the centenarians he talks about and would like more of you to join him. Here are his 4 healthy aging tips to help you get there.
Physical activity is paramount to a healthy, long life — and you can reap the benefits at any age. Dr. Steve Blair says “physical inactivity and low fitness is perhaps the most important predictor of morbidity (illness) and mortality (death) that we know of. Low fitness accounts for more sickness and deaths in the population than anything else that we’ve studied”.
2-Take responsibility for your medical self-care
Medical self-care is what a person does to recognize, prevent, treat, and manage health problems on his or her own. We now know that if people pay attention to managing their health and medical care, while working in concert with their healthcare providers, it is possible to lead a long, health, and productive life.
3-Stay engaged in life
Have a purpose and stay useful. Fight loneliness by maintaining social activities. Keep your brain active through intellectual pursuits.
4-Don’t fall pry to the snake-oil salesmen selling longevity
It is currently not possible to extent human to 150 years or more even with vitamins and miracle elixirs. We are all winding down. All good things must end.
And BTW, even at 81, Bortz is still active. He plans to go to Ferrara, Italy, to run his 42nd marathon this year. While we may not all be like Bortz, it’s never too late to get started with some activity.
BTW, I decided some time ago that I am going to live to 110. Who wants to join me?
You can read more about this topic here.
- May 12: Dr. Walter Bortz’s 40 Years of Marathon Peak Performance (peakperformance.runnersworld.com)