Butterfly Sparks Designs

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Low Down On Bones

"If you get rid of unfair practices, quit blaming victims, quit gossiping about other people's sins; If you are generous with the hungry and start giving yourselves to the down-and-out, your lives will begin to glow in the darkness, your shadowed lives will be bathed in sunlight. I will always show you where to go. I'll give you a full life in the emptiest of places-- firm muscles, strong bones. You'll be like a well-watered garden, a gurgling spring that never runs dry." Isaiah 58 (The Message).

If you're like me, you've been hearing alot in the media about osteoporosis, calcium, and bone health.

Recently I was asked to work a community health expo as a stroke nurse to educate the public more about strokes.  While I was there, there was a booth for free bone density scanning.  That afternoon, the nurses at the bone booth had me come over and check my own bone density to ensure all was well.

Rather confidently, I went over and put my foot on the machine, expecting a stellar result.  I was one of those kids who drank milk like it was going out of style throughout my childhood.  I still drink a ton of milk and was sure my bone density levels would be stellar as a result. 

Imagine my surprise when the nurse looked over her little beady glasses at me and told me I was close to the "Danger Zone."  Yep, those are the exact words she used, thank you- the "Danger Zone" for being at risk for calcium deficiency and bone problems. 

I had a mini-freakout on the inside, me the lady who ingests milk like candy, and asked her what I needed to be doing so that I don't cross over into the "Danger Zone."  I wasn't sure what that meant, but it sounded scary.

"Just take an extra calcium + Vitamin D pill with your daily multivitamin," she said, "And you should be fine."

Alright, ladies (and gents, if any of you out there are reading), here's some lowdown on bone density health and why it matters.  I didn't know much about this, even though I'm a nurse, so I decided to get schooled since the yellow tape was flying around, saying, "Warning- near the danger zone!"  And the best prescription for good health, I believe, lies in the words above, taken from the book of Isaiah in the Bible.  Honoring God with our lives means everything is better- including our physical health.  Discipline begets discipline, I once heard a wise woman say.

---Why does it matter?  Good question.  Here are some statistics on why taking care of our bones matters: 
     According to the International Osteoporosis Foundation, 1 in 3 women over the age of 50 will experience osteoporotic fractures, and 1 in 5 men will.  A 10% loss of bone mass in the vertebrae can double the risk of vertebral fractures, and similarly, a 10% loss of bone mass in the hip can result in a 2.5 times greater risk of hip fracture.  58% of women aged 50 to 59 have low bone mass, and the percentage gets higher with age.  1.5 million fractures per year are caused by osteoporosis.

---What actually is Osteoporosis?  Osteoporosis is a condition where the bones become increasingly brittle, porous, and likely to break/fracture.  This can result in decreased height, pain, and skeletal deformity.  It is more common in the elderly and those on long-term steroid medication therapy.

---Vitamin D is important because it helps your body absorb and retain the calcium you take in.

---What does "bone density" actually mean?  Well, it's like this: the higher the mineral content in your bones, the more dense they are.  The more dense your bones are, the stronger they are.  If they are stronger, they are less likely to break.  This is why a fall for an older person often results in a fracture- their bones simply aren't as strong to sustain the fall.

---How much calcium/vitamin D does one need per day?  In all my research, different people say different things.  I will say, I think a yearly checkup with your physician will provide the best answer to that question.  The need will depend on your age, your health history, and your diet.  I could go into numbers here, but everyone from the Harvard School of Public Health to the Mayo Clinic to the International Osteoporisis Foundation has a different idea on recommended levels.  If I post those here for you, it will only confuse you, as it did me.  I would say for most of you, if you're eating a balanced diet and taking a daily multivitamin, you should be well on your way to good bone health.  There are higher risk factors for osteoporosis including a family history, alcohol/tobacco use, chronic use of steroid or anti-seizure medications, and being a small, thin-framed individual.  Next time you see your physician, simply inquire about how much Vitamin D/Calcium he/she would recommend for you individually.
---What else can I do for bone health?  Exercise.  Bones get stronger with exercise, and strength-building or weight-building exercises like lifting weights, walking, or climbing stairs will all build good bone health.  Diet and exercise prevent almost every major illness affecting our country today.  Bone health included!


I hope this post today simply raises awareness.  So the next time you meet with your doctor, you can inquire about your own bone health and take steps to proactively ensure the best quality of life for yourself.  We all have to start somewhere, and if you feel behind- don't worry!  It's never too late to start making good choices for your health and your body.  That's one of the beautiful gifts God has given us- new mercies every morning.  I struggle too, daily, making myself go to the gym or take a jog.  I want to eat some chocolate-sweet-goodness as much as the next guy.  If we fall down, we simply get back up, and keep trying!

At the end of the day, it's about experiencing LIFE in all it's fullness- the good life Jesus affords us if we only lean in.  Let's reach for it together!

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