Them Bones, Them Bones . . . They Need Some Help

by Nancy Ayash - Date: 2007-01-04 - Word Count: 772 Share This!

How wonderful the skeleton. It protects our organs, supports our weight, enables us to move about, and contributes to the delicate cellular balance within our system. We only know the skeleton in a very rudimentary way. For the majority of us, our exposure is limited to a plastic model that hangs on a hook in some long forgotten science class, or when we are surrounded by skeleton costumes during Halloween. Perhaps the association with death deters us from appreciating human bones. But it is mistake to view the skeleton as lifeless. The bones within your body are very much alive and active.

As in many things, the bone is not what it seems. Although it has the appearance of hardness, it is actually very hollow. The bone consists of a network of channels and canals that contain blood vessels and nerve fiber. Deep within the skeletal system is a working balance between cells that maintain bone health. Poor nutrition and lack of exercise can throw the skeletal system out of equilibrium, and leave us vulnerable to a weakened structure.

As we age, our osteoclasts, which destroy bone cells, kick into high gear. Our osteoblasts, which build bone cells, begin falling down on the job. This imbalance eventually causes a disease called osteoporosis, which makes our bones brittle and easily fractured. The good news is that we can prevent this from happening if we pay attention to our skeleton's nutritional needs and move our bones regularly. How simple is that? By following two simple steps you will not be one of the estimated 12 million people projected to have osteoporosis by the year 2010.

Let's begin with calcium. It is a very special mineral. In the hierarchy of our existence; it's right up there with the other elements that make up our living bodies. Think about that for a moment. Calcium is one of the basic building blocks of life. And our bones depend on it to remain in good working order. Therefore, we must consume enough of this element to stay in tip-top shape.

The best source of calcium is found in dairy products: milk, yogurt, and cheese. Although some vegetables might offer some calcium, they can't provide the high mgs to meet a 1,200 mg RDA. I realize this statement might cause vegetarians to tar and feather me, and chase me out of town -- but we are talking bone health. Calcium is abundant in milk and its by-products - just simple facts.

Not only is the supply of calcium important, but there are other factors crucial to maintaining healthy bones. Calcium needs sunlight and vitamin D to reach its destination -- to be absorbed into the skeletal system. If you live in a climate with plenty of sunshine, this is quite beneficial and you probably won't require supplements. If not, you must find a means to increase your intake of vitamin D through supplements or by consuming products that are fortified with vitamin D. The RDA is around 400/IU or 800/IU for people without adequate sun exposure.

Phosphorus is also vital for bone health. According to Dr. Machelle Seibel, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at University of Massachusetts Medical School, "Calcium and phosphorus work together like bricks and mortar . . . you need the appropriate amount of each to truly build a strong bone structure." Therefore, when you think of your calcium intake, always remember that it requires phosphorous to really get the job done. A study by the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey found that phosphorus was not being consumed in adequate amounts for women over 50. In fact, calcium without phosphorous can actually result in bone loss.

If you decide to use supplements for your calcium, be aware that many list calcium carbonate, calcium citrate, and then calcium phosphate as the main ingredients. Since bone is 85 percent calcium phosphate, look for products that are higher in phosphorus. The RDA for phosphorus is almost the same as calcium, around 1,000 to 1,200 mg. This one-to-one ratio is easy to remember.

Not only do your bones need a nutritional balance between minerals, they need movement. You don't want your skeleton to creak. A thirty minute daily exercise that includes weight bearing aerobics - walking, jogging, and stair climbing -- create enough impact on the skeletal system to improve its strength and flexibility.

Maintaining healthy bones is pretty easy, and osteoporosis is a preventable disease. Be good to your skeleton, and it will serve you as the protector and guardian of the body. You will also have wonderful posture, which is an expression of great fortitude.

A physical exam and test for bone mineral density is the first step to improving 'them bones'.

How simple is that?

Related Tags: osteoporosis, calcium, phosphorus

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