Bone Function, Purpose, and Structure
The skeletal system contains over 200 bones that provide a frame for the muscles, cartilage, and ligaments that make up the human body. Bones provide a structural base as well as a supply of rich nutrients to the rest of the body. Our bones are not only responsible for encasing our physical stature, but providing the groundwork for many of the biological and metabolic processes we rely on. Despite the image that comes to mind when we think of bones and their rigidity, they are in fact living tissue that evolves and changes over time. As children, our bones are more porous and as a result, more flexible than they are as we age. Though concerns about bone health often center around diseases that typically affect older adults, it is vital that we nurture and take care of our bones in our youth, so they can continue to evolve in healthy ways.Our overall body weight can be divided into two very general parts; the weight of our bones and the weight of everything else within the body. At least 20 percent of the average human body is comprised of bone weight, while the remaining 80 percent consists of plasma, blood, and our internal organs. Bone development changes as we do, and with it, the mass, density, and growth needed to live healthily. It is around our early 30’s when we begin to lose bone mass, partly as a result of the aging process, as well as our dietary habits, exercise routines, genetics, and overall health. When we lose bone mass, we are at increased risk for fractures, osteoporosis, brittle bones, and a host of other painful conditions.
The Importance of Maintaining Bone Health
Bone health contributes to our quality of life as we ambulate and move through our day to day tasks. Like many health concerns, the well- being and fitness of our skeletal system knows no socioeconomic, racial, or cultural bounds. In fact, maintaining bone health is a public health concern that affects all people across all strata. Additionally, unhealthy bones pave the way for fractures, skin diseases, infections, and leave patients at risk for and susceptible to a multitude of ailments. Left unchecked, diseases of the bone and musculoskeletal system can prove life limiting as well as horrifically debilitating. There are important differences between the genders when it comes to bone density and bone mass however. Women, by and large, tend to be more susceptible to fractures at earlier ages than men. And because men are often not as intensely screened and monitored for osteoporosis or other disorders of the bone, their disease progression tends to be more fatal more rapidly, as it is often detected far too late in the game. Despite hormonal differences, height, weight, and size differences, as well as structural disparities and the rate of bone density and mass screenings, men and women can benefit from many of the same types of treatment, preventive care, and overall conscientiousness when it comes to achieving and maintaining the best possible bone health outcomes.
Disease States and Poor Bone Health
Minor skeletal and orthopedic concerns can quickly develop into chronic conditions that leave individuals compromised and dependent on others. Osteoporosis is but one of these disease states that can lead to ailments that are far worse. For example, a woman with osteoporotic bones is more likely to fall and in turn, more likely to suffer fatal fractures. With decreased bone and muscle strength, a patient with osteoporosis is less likely to be able to care for themselves in ways that will prevent additional injuries and further bone decompensation. Paget’s Disease is a bone condition for which there is no known cause and no definitive cure. It appears to be genetic and varies widely in its symptomatology. This condition causes bones, and not all of them necessarily, to grow too big or too small, as well as too quickly or too slowly. Though it is more commonly seen in older men, it can present in younger individuals, as well as women. Paget’s is most noticeably seen in the pelvic bones, skull, and spine, and can present minimally and alternately, with resultant cartilage tears, broken bones, and pain. Diabetes Mellitus a metabolic disorder in which high levels of blood sugar are maintained for far longer than the body should be made to withstand, is most often, and appropriately so, discussed within the context of gastrointestinal health. However, this condition can significantly affect bone health as well. This happens as a result of insulin resistance and can be seen most prominently in slowly as well as poorly healed wounds, fractures, and loss of bone density. Rates of bone infections are much higher for the diabetic population. Additionally, medications used to treat diabetes can be contraindicated in the treatment of diseases of the bone.
Vitamins Play a Significant Role in Bone Health
Though treatment options for bone health may seem temporary at best, there are a multitude of preventive care options that are at our disposal well before disease sets in. With the proper dietary intake and nutritional guidance, many of these bone states may be largely avoided. Vitamins are key to the establishment of healthy bones. And we are not talking about vitamins in pill form, but rather, from their natural food sources. For example, foods rich in Vitamin A promote bone growth and cell reproduction and can be found in carrots, sweet potatoes, and kale. Foods rich in vitamin Dare also integral to proper bone health and can be found in beans, salmon, leafy greens, organ meats, and eggs. These foods are crucial to bone growth because they allow our bodies to absorb calcium, a nutrient that is concomitantly crucial to the development and maintenance of healthy bones. Insufficient vitamin D levels are highly correlated with skeletal deformities, rickets, and generalized weakness. Calcium, a nutrient found in dairy products, tofu, edamame, seeds, and many dried fruits, is critical for establishing bone strength and maintaining healthy teeth. Another reason calcium must be consumed is because our bodies do not produce it on their own. Other vitamins critical to bone health include vitamin B12, found in red meat and animal proteins, vitamin C, found in citrus fruits and tomatoes, and Vitamin K found in leafy greens. Together, these vitamins contribute significantly to bone health, bone density, and skeletal strength. It is wise to remember too, that the cost of these foods is far cheaper than long term supplements one might need to treat bone deficiencies.
Building and Maintaining Bone Health Throughout the Lifespan
In addition to eating a diet that is rich in the vitamins and minerals needed for proper bone health, avoiding alcohol and smoking are key to maintaining skeletal strength. While alcohol interferes with the absorption of calcium, smoking increases your chances of suffering fractures, developing bone cancer, and decreasing your bone density. Weight training and resistance exercises are critical to bone health as well, because they strengthen the muscles, all of which are attached to bone, stimulate bone growth, and increase bone density. Maintaining your bone health is dependent on many factors including how you conduct yourself throughout the course of your life. Your behaviors will either enhance or diminish your health and only you can determine how to proceed in this vain. In summary, your convictions to your personal welfare will significantly guide your lifestyle and as such, whether or not you are mindful of your bone health or choose to dangerously ignore it. If you would like to discuss your bone health and the options available to you through Body Systems Wellness care plans, contact Dr. Shahen Kurestian, DC at his office in Glendale, California.