Friday, September 22, 2017

Falls Prevention Awareness Day

There seems to be a day for everything on the calendar! National Hot Dog Day was July 19th, October 4th is Random Acts of Poetry Day, October 9th is National Fire Prevention Day and September 22nd is Falls Prevention Awareness Day!  

Some are more important than others.  Preventing falls should be high on the list.  There are some alarming statistics related to falling:

  • One in four Americans 65 and older fall each year,
  • Annually 37.3 million falls require hospitalization,
  • And an estimated annual cost of $67.7 billion due to fall injuries by 2020.

Fortunately one of the best strategies for preventing falls is exercise.  

A simple but highly effective exercise to maintain or improve balance only requires a chair.  At the surface the sit to stand exercise seems very basic and possibly easy for some (until you do multiple repetitions in a set).

Begin sitting upright with your feet flat on the ground underneath your knees. Move your shoulders and head over your toes, bring your knees forward, and allow your hips to come of the chair, then push down equally into both feet to stand up. Sit back down and repeat.

Tip: Make sure to keep your weight evenly distributed between both legs, and try to keep your back straight throughout the exercise. Do not lock out your knees once you are standing. 

What makes this exercise one of the top choices for improving balance and preventing falls, to start it is functional.  Think about how many times you have to get up and down from a chair throughout your day.  Often standing up from a chair people feel unsteady and need to take a moment to ready themselves before walking.  Practicing this exercise will not only improve your leg strength which will make the act of getting up and down easier but it will also give you confidence that once you are standing you will be able to move.   The sit to stand exercise requires minimal equipment, all you need is a chair! It can be executed in a safe manner and modifications can be made to make it more or less challenging. The use of arm rests on a chair to assist in standing is one modification that can be used to make the exercise easier.  If you have difficulty with your balance once you are standing try placing your chair near a counter so you have support in front of you once you are on your feet.

Start with trying to build your repetitions gradually up to a set of 10.  Once you are able to achieve this goal you can add multiple sets throughout your day.  One simple way to sneak in some extra reps is to stand up and sit down twice when getting out of a chair! 

Blog post by Eric Chandler.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Osteoporosis: Lazy Isn’t for Bones

Osteoporosis and Screening

Osteoporosis is a disease that reduces the strength and mass of bones, making them fragile and susceptible to fractures. Although it is most common in middle-aged and older women, osteoporosis can affect both men and women of any age. According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, about nine million Americans have osteoporosis and an estimated 48 million have low bone density. This means that nearly 60 percent of adults age 50 and older are at risk. One in two women and up to one in four men age 50 and older will break a bone due to osteoporosis. One measure of the health of bones is “bone mineral density” or BMD for short. A bone scan to assess BMD is a relatively simple procedure that is offered by medical practitioners. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), an independent panel of experts commissioned by the government to study the evidence behind routine health screens, has issued guidelines for osteoporosis screening. They recommend that women younger than 60 get bone density scans if they have risk factors that increase the likelihood that they could experience a fracture within the next 10 years. That means women with parents who fractured bones, a broken bone after age 50, post-menopausal, a history of smoking, alcohol abuse, or a slender frame. The panel maintained its recommendation that women age 65 and over and men 70 and over should get bone density testing, even if they have no other risk factors. Plan for the future - Talk with your health care provider to find out what is recommended for you.

Pressure your bones into growing stronger

For bones to increase and maintain their density, they require the application of weight-bearing force.

In fact, studies suggest that the best exercise may not only be weight-bearing but also impact exercise. This means imparting a jolt to muscle and bone such as you would when placing a foot forcefully on the ground while running, or lifting or pushing a weight suddenly. Naturally, you have to ensure you do such exercise safely.  Weight-bearing exercise, when preformed correctly, causes the muscles and tendons to pull on the bones. This stimulates them to produce new cells to replace old ones and absorb calcium, making them harder. The load on the bones can be created by your own body weight or by external weights like dumbbells or gym machines in a weight training program. 

Appropriate exercise as we age, not only help keep bones healthy, it protects against falls and fractures as well improving balance and strength.

Suggested Exercises to Help Build Bone Density

While all exercise benefits your general fitness. Weight-bearing exercise is best for strengthening bones.

Some good examples are:

  • Running and jogging
  • Gymnastics
  • Aerobics class -- step, dance, and floor aerobics
  • Weight lifting -- dumbbells, barbells, machines, body weight exercises
  • Team sports involving running and throwing -- basketball, football, baseball, softball, volleyball
  • Individual sports involving running -- racket sports
  • Walking (but less effective than running or jogging)

Examples of least effective exercises:

  • Swimming
  • Water aerobics
  • Cycling

These exercises are not useful for building bone density but are still effective in building cardiovascular fitness. Bear in mind that running or leg-based exercise acts mainly on the lower body.

And although much of the disabling effect of bone loss is felt in the hips and spine, exercising the upper body with weight-bearing exercise is of equal importance. Broken wrists and arms from falls, as we age, are not uncommon.

Without proper diet and exercise, bone density deteriorates over time, leading to symptoms such as back pain, poor posture and fractures. A well-rounded fitness plan, including cardiovascular exercise, weight training and flexibility exercises, combined with a healthy food plan, will help to prevent bone loss as we age.

Blog post by Ally Wilson.