By Ernst Lamothe Jr.
When we look at the dynamics of the human body, we start with examining the bones and joints. People often overlook their importance as the body ages. The lack of knowledge often leads to bad practices — and just because you are in your 20s, 30s, and 40s doesn’t mean you can’t develop osteoarthritis or other related conditions.
Experts believe it’s essential to debunk false claims.
“When you think about bone health, you must think about all the various preventive measures. I tell people you need to start young and gain all the knowledge you can to keep your bones and joints healthy,” said physician K. Keely Boyle, a lower extremity joint replacement and reconstruction specialist affiliated with Buffalo Medical Group. “This is especially the case for women who suffer bone mass loss quicker than men. There are things you can do for your bones before you ever consider steroid injections or replacements.”
Boyle, a hip and knee replacement specialist who also teaches in the orthopedics department at University at Buffalo, talks about five misconceptions about bones and joints.
1. Arthritis is only an adult disease
No one wakes up with arthritis at 65 without warning signs along the way. Various types of arthritis have different causes, but most begin earlier in life with mild symptoms that often go unnoticed. Arthritis is the swelling and tenderness of one or more of your joints. The main symptoms of arthritis are joint pain and stiffness, which typically worsen with age. The most common types of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Osteoarthritis causes cartilage — the hard, slippery tissue that covers the ends of bones where they form a joint — to break down. Rheumatoid arthritis is a disease in which the immune system attacks the joints, beginning with the lining of joints. In addition, juvenile arthritis also exists.
“I have younger patients who come in,” said Boyle. “We can’t always predetermine who will end up with arthritis and who won’t so people are surprised when they start feeling symptoms earlier than expected. When you get older, the two most common fractures are hip and spine, and decreased bone health can lead to immobility and have serious health consequences. That is why you have to pay attention to your bones early in life.”
2. Foods can’t affect joint pain
Choosing the right foods is important in building bone density, strengthening connective tissue and reducing inflammation, which can help prevent injuries over time and will lead you to a long active life. The right diet can help regulate your body, fight inflammation, help strengthen bones and your immune system. There are foods that can reduce joint pain and increase mobility, according to the Mayo Clinic. Some of those foods include omega-3 fatty acids/fish oils, nuts and seeds, colorful fruits, olive oil, lentils and beans, garlic and root vegetables, whole grains, bone broth and dark chocolate.
“Inflammation can cause arthritis and often we can get inflammation from the foods we eat,” said Boyle.
In addition, Boyle said, processed food and alcohol affects bones.
3. Exercising makes it worse
Pretending like pain doesn’t exist or hoping it eventually dissipates won’t help your joints. While you may have to limit your activity or mobility, the solution to having healthy bones is using them. Limiting your muscles can cause a disastrous effect of weakening them. Weight bearing exercise helps increase bone formation and protect bone health in older adults, including those with low bone density. For those who say exercise puts more stress on your joints are spreading myths that can dangerously deceive people.
“It’s essential to keep your knee and hip movement fluid. I also tell my patients you have to keep your weight in check because that can put a lot of pressure on your knees and joints,” added Boyle. “Putting on weight can accelerate arthritis. You must incorporate some exercising in your life.”
4. Supplements can’t do anything
Calcium and Vitamin D are an essential combination for bone health. Research shows a calcium-rich diet including foods and supplements helps build and protect your bones. Calcium is a mineral that the body needs for numerous functions, including building and maintaining bones and teeth, blood clotting, the transmission of nerve impulses, and the regulation of the heart’s rhythm. About 99% of the body’s calcium is stored in the bones and teeth. The remaining 1% is found in the blood, muscle, and other tissues. Calcium enables our muscles to contract and our heart to beat. Medical experts suggest replacing energy drinks and soda with water because it keeps your body’s cartilage staying flexible and hydrated with the cushy tissues that support the joints.
“You need both calcium and vitamin D for your bones to stay strong and for you to stay mobile for the rest of your life,” said Boyle. “Calcium works together to help support the outside structure of your bones. When it comes to vitamin D, especially living in our area where we don’t always get the sunlight other cities receive, that is why it’s important to make sure you receive it in food and supplements.”
5. Smoking only affects the lungs and nothing else
Smoking rates in the U.S. have declined in recent decades. However, about 15.5% of the population — or about 37.8 million adults — smoke cigarettes according to the latest numbers from Centers for Disease Control. Smoking is an issue that leads to disease and disability and harms nearly every organ of the body and is the leading cause of preventable death.
“Smoking really affects a lot of organs but smoking specially causes your bones to weaken,” said Boyle. “Smoking blocks the calcium and vitamin D from doing what it is trying to do to make your bones strong.”