- Aging & Longevity
Why I Started Climbing Stairs: A Guide on How to Build Bones
Before we begin to a seemingly boring discussion of healthy lifestyle, let me first tell you a story. I live in an apartment building. It was always dark inside the building because the lights were always turned off. You see, the building owner was very stingy. He would tell the keeper to roam around the building and turn off any lights that were left on, thus the darkness. But despite the energy conservation, we tenants pay a rather high amount of maintenance fee (which, according to the landlord, depends on the electricity being consumed within the building) every month. We had an elevator, but the keeper needed to list on her notebook whoever comes in and out of the elevator. The landlord wanted to track down which tenant uses the elevator more frequently (perhaps to charge those who frequent the elevator more on their monthly bill?). Anyway, so the rest of the tenants would always use the elevator, to at least benefit from that fluctuating and mysterious maintenance fee (only God knows how the landlord computes them) that we pay. But I kept a promise. I made it a habit to always use the stairs instead of the elevator. There’s a reason for that.
What is Osteoporosis?
According to The Merck Manual of Medical Information, “Osteoporosis is a progressive decrease in the density of bones that weakens them and makes them more likely to fracture.” Bone density continues to increase until around age 30. That is why it is very important to consume adequate amount of calcium until around that age. As it reaches its maximum density at that period, the density starts to drop. Lack of calcium and minerals, as well as hormones that are vital for bone development (such as estrogen in women, testosterone in men, growth hormone, and calcitonin) leads to osteoporosis. Osteoporosis comes without warning. The bone becomes thinner and thinner. Soon, some bones will start to collapse. In some cases, the vertebrae also collapse, leading to a curved appearance of the back.
A Simple Way for Healthier Bones
I have previously written a hub entitled “The Easiest and Cheapest Way to Stay Healthy.” And believe it or not, stair-climbing is one of the easiest ways you could do to become healthier. Have you heard of weight-bearing exercises? These are exercises that put load on your muscles and create a pull on your bones. By pulling the bones, the bone cells are stimulated, thus an increase in bone density. Weight-lifting, walking, jogging, and stair-climbing are some of the examples. Sports such as tennis and basketball are also included in this category, as these exercises allow you to move against the gravity. However, you need not engage in an hour of sports if you don't have the time. You could instead incorporate weight-bearing exercises into your daily lifestyle. Use the stairs instead of the elevator (just what I was trying to do), park your car farther away from your office entrance door so you could walk, or carry your grocery bags toward your car (of course, parking farther away will give you more exercise!). The list goes on.. Everyone needs this kind of exercise. Your bones will thank you for that.
One of the highly marketed health foods is the milk. Milk is a wonderful drink as it contains a lot of calcium which our body needs. But drinking a glass or two does not guarantee that you are free of bone diseases in later life. If you don’t have a balanced diet, the rich content of calcium found in the milk would not be readily absorbed by the bones. Vitamin D is usually added into milk as this vitamin encourages calcium absorption. However, many compounds (more on this on the next section) can still leech out the calcium from your bones.
Dietary protein intake and urinary excretion of calcium: a cross-sectional study in a healthy Japanese population: According to this study, excess protein promotes calcium excretion in the urine of the elderly.
The DASH Diet and Sodium Reduction Improve Markers of Bone Turnover and Calcium Metabolism in Adults: Results show that The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet and low sodium intake are beneficial for bone health.
Exercise for preventing and treating osteoporosis in postmenopausal women: Results show that weight-bearing exercises are effective in increasing bone density in postmenopausal women.
What increases bone density?
That is, weight-bearing exercises and adequate amount of calcium. Consuming calcium is tricky though, as you also need to keep in mind how to balance your diet. Vitamin D, magnesium, potassium, and lactose encourage absorption, whereas protein, sodium, and phosphorus lead to resorption of calcium. Marion Nestle, a renowned nutritionist and a Lifetime Achievement Awardee discusses in her book, What to Eat, that people who consume large amounts of dairy products still have high occurrences of osteoporosis and bone fractures. Why? Because they eat lots of sodium from processed foods, lots of protein from meat, and they tend to exercise less. She says that it might be better to consume calcium from plant foods since vegetables are much healthier. Although they contain less calcium, but they also have other important minerals that help promote calcium retention. Dr. Bradley Wilcox and Dr. Craig Wilcox suggest in their book The Okinawa Program, that orange juice with fortified with Calcium and Vitamin D as better alternative of milk, as milk has high fat content and protein (protein discourages calcium absorption).
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