Is there such a thing as the Fountain of Youth when it comes to our bones and joints?
We asked board certified orthopedic surgeon Dr. Barbara Bergin if it’s possible to slow down the course of time on our bodies. According to Dr. Bergin, we can’t reverse the course of time, but we can slow down or change the natural course of disease and aging with some simple lifestyle modifications.
With her orthopedic surgery background, Dr. Bergin regularly practices what she preaches and gives personal, sound advice to patients on how to prevent musculoskeletal injuries.
Her simple keys to maintaining more youthful bones and joints – weight, diet and exercise.
Weight and Our Musculoskeletal Health
It’s no surprise that maintaining a healthy weight is critical to the aging, health and function of our muscles, bones and joints (musculoskeletal health).
Here are some facts to consider:
- Morbid obesity ages your knees by 20 years! For example, if you’re morbidly obese, you may start to suffer from arthritis when you’re 45, instead of 65.
- We put four to six times our body weight into our kneecaps when going up a single stair, six to eight times our body weight when getting up from a chair and ten to twenty times our body weight when getting up from a squatting position.
- Reducing your weight by just ten pounds can have a significant effect on the delicate cartilage under the kneecap.
Maintaining a healthy weight throughout life can significantly reduce the amount of stress on our joints.
Diet & Our Bone and Joint Health
Calcium and vitamin D are two essential nutrients that significantly impact the aging of our musculoskeletal system. At a certain point in our lives, foods alone may not be enough to get those nutrients. Poor bone density, caused by a lack of calcium and Vitamin D, can result in osteoporosis, a serious bone condition that develops when bone mineral density and bone mass decreases. This can lead to an increased risk of broken bones.
“Don’t wait until you sustain a fracture to have a serious conversation with your physician about supplements”, Dr. Bergin warns. “Fractures can negatively affect your quality of life and cause excruciating pain with long recoveries.”
A healthy diet not only plays a role in our bone health, it can also increase your risk of developing arthritis at an earlier age. Dr. Robert Koval, Texas Orthopedics rheumatologist, recommends avoiding foods that cause inflammation to help prevent further damage to the joints.
He says, “While there are no formal guidelines on a specific diet to follow, I often recommend a Mediterranean diet that stresses natural ingredients like fruits and vegetables and avoids processed foods and excess carbohydrates. There is no perfect diet for everyone, and oftentimes a food elimination diet can detect which foods each individual should avoid or might benefit from.”
Dr. Bergin recommends regular, low-impact exercise, stretching and light weightlifting to preserve the health of your bones and joints. Focus on activities like walking, swimming and cycling, but avoid high impact sports and heavy weightlifting, which can cause serious injuries. Acute and repetitive strain injuries can have devastating effects on your ability to perform even the most basic activities of daily living.
Dr. Bergin notes, “There are no surgeries to refurbish your joints. Even total hip and knee replacements will not return you to a youthful condition.”
We know not all injuries can be prevented and recommend seeing a physician when they occur. If you’re concerned about an injury, schedule an appointment online with one of our specialists, or call (512) 439-1001.