How those New Year’s resolutions just might save your bones

What did you vow to do in 2019? Lose weight? Get in shape? Stop smoking? All healthy endeavors, and efforts that will also help improve your orthopedic health as well. Here’s how those three resolutions—and a couple more—can help you make 2019 the year you improve your orthopedic health.

Losing Weight

Excess weight puts your hips, knees and ankles under increased pressure with every step you take. Just walking normally, the force exerted on your joints can equal 3-5 times your body weight, so every pound counts. This constant force can result in inflammation in your joints and cause cartilage to break down, leaving your bones rubbing together with no cushion. Ouch.

Losing even a few pounds can have a huge impact on your joint health. It can ease the pain in arthritic joints, helping you get more active and possibly avoid or postpone surgery. Maintaining a healthy weight can also help you avoid future joint problems. One study found that the risk of developing knee problems would drop 21.4% in overweight and obese men if they lost a significant amount of weight. For women, joint issues would decrease by 33% if they lost weight.

Exercising

Our bodies were designed to move, and getting daily exercise is one way to help preserve or improve your range of motion. If you have joint problems like arthritis it may feel like exercise is the last thing you want to do. But strengthening the muscles surrounding your joints helps support them, relieving undue pressure and reducing pain and inflammation.

You should always discuss exercising with your doctor before you begin. There may be some exercises you should avoid until you are stronger, and any joint condition you have will influence the types of exercise you need in order to get stronger. You’ll also want to be sure your overall health is good enough to start a new exercise routine. In general, though, walking and light muscle-strengthening exercises are safe and effective.

Quitting smoking

Everyone knows that quitting smoking is good for your lungs, heart and overall health. But did you know it’s also good for your bones? That’s because bones are nourished by blood (just like other organs and tissues in your body), and having nicotine in your bloodstream causes the blood vessels to dilate. This, in turn, decreases the levels of nutrients supplied to your bones. Smoking negatively impacts your musculoskeletal health in a number of ways, including:

  • Increasing your risk of developing osteoporosis
  • Interfering with calcium absorption
  • Decreasing estrogen levels (both women and men need estrogen to help bones retain calcium and other minerals)
  • Increasing the chances of tendonitis, bursitis and other overuse injuries.

Cutting back on alcohol.

Research indicates that chronic, heavy alcohol use (especially during the teenage and young adult years) can significantly affect bone health and increase the risk of osteoporosis later in life. How? Too much alcohol interferes with the stomach’s ability to absorb calcium. Hormones can also become unbalanced. Heavy drinkers also are more likely to suffer fractures (especially of the hip and spine) due to brittle bones and nerve damage. What’s more, those fractures can take longer to heal.

The good news is that eliminating or reducing your alcohol intake can help your bones recover over time.

Drinking more water.

If you suffer from joint pain, drinking more water can help in a number of ways. First, staying well hydrated keeps nutrients moving through your bloodstream and into your joints. Water also flushes toxins out of your joints. Even mild dehydration can lead to reduced kidney function, which can result in toxin build-up that keeps joints from rejuvenating. And, if you need yet another reason to drink more water, being dehydrated can make you irritable, which can stimulate the production of cortisol, otherwise known as the “stress hormone.” Increased cortisol can result in lower bone density.

We’ve just outlined how five simple changes in lifestyle can help improve your orthopedic health. But it’s good to know that, if you do encounter any orthopedic problems throughout the new year, Coastal Orthopedics is here to help. Just call us at 941-792-1404 or request an appointment here. If you experience an urgent injury, please call to request a same-day appointment. We’re here to help you start the new year off right.