Sticks, Stones and Broken Bones
Save your skeleton now with healthy habits to prevent bone disease.
Thinking about getting old…gets old. Americans don’t want to think about aging. We live in the moment. We think that our golf swings will follow us well past our fifties and that walking the dog will continue beyond our 80th birthdays. Beware. Unhealthy bones and joints could fracture those thoughts as early as age 30 if we aren’t careful.
“These conditions aren’t necessarily on your radar screen,” says Kim Templeton, MD, an orthopaedic oncologist at the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City. “People see this as a disease of aging and not something they necessarily want to face.”
It’s easy to forget about your bones with all of the news and education surrounding other major organs like the brain and the heart.
“Bone and joint disorders are put on the backburner because other conditions are seen as life-threatening,” says Templeton. “But 15 percent of women and 30 percent of men die of a fractured hip.”
Being educated early about bone health and musculoskeletal disorders like arthritis and osteoporosis can help to prevent problems like a broken hip later in life.
Templeton is currently serving as the President of the United States Bone and Joint Decade/Initiative (USBJD/I), a global campaign to raise awareness about musculoskeletal disorders. One of the goals of her presidency is to continue to grow the group’s public outreach programs that mainly focus on prevention highlighting the importance of calcium, vitamin D and physical activity as key contributors to bone health.
“Education is so important,” says Templeton, who hopes to further engage the primary care community to communicate the message of bone health to patients. “Advocacy is needed to increase research for musculoskeletal conditions, and we need to train researchers also.”
According to the USBJD/I, nearly one in two Americans over the age of 18 is affected by a musculoskeletal disorder such as a fracture, back pain, sports trauma, arthritis or osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is the most common type of bone disease and is crippling for nearly one in two women and one in four men. However, osteoporosis—or the thinning of bone tissue—can often be prevented by actions taken in the teen years. The same can be said for many forms of arthritis.
“High school students need to focus on bone health along with diet, exercise and joint health,” says Templeton. “It’s the time when you really want to talk to them about lifestyle.”
Templeton is involved in many USBJD/I educational programs such as PB&J (Protect Your Bones and Joints) which is geared toward teens and young adults. PB&J encourages prevention and focuses on how musculoskeletal disorders such as sports and road-related trauma can lead to chronic pain, school absence and lifelong disability. The program also includes education on childhood obesity which can contribute to bone and joint decline.
“The heavier you are, the more weight is on the tissue, and it starts to break down,” says Templeton.
Another USBJD/I program that has been led by Templeton is titled Fit to a T, playing off the term “T-score” which is the measure of an individual’s bone density and susceptibility to fragility fracture. The educational program for adults age 40 and older debuted at the Johnson County Library and has since gathered more than 10,000 attendees across the country.
“You want to do the same things you do with other health systems,” says Templeton, who doesn’t want to see anyone suffer from a debilitating disease like osteoporosis. “But unlike other tissues … the damage is there and can continue to get worse.”
According to the U.S. Surgeon General’s Report on Bone Health and Osteoporosis, the year 2020 could be devastating for people above age 50 if things don’t change with “Dem Bones.” Half of people older than age 50 are predicted to be at risk for fractures related to osteoporosis and low-bone mass. That’s a paralyzing statistic that literally could reduce freedom of movement for many unprepared folks who want to enjoy the twilight years unburdened by disease.
Templeton is hopeful that her work and her presidency will allow many organizations to continue to come together to educate the public about bone and joint health.
“We need to work together to decrease incidence and increase quality of life,” says Templeton, who wishes to prevent as many trips to the doc as possible for musculoskeletal conditions moving forward.
This Halloween, let ghouls and goblins be your bone health reminder. Take these recommended steps from Kim Templeton, MD, to prevent musculoskeletal conditions like osteoporosis and arthritis before the Hunchback of Notre Dame becomes your only costume of choice.
• Review your family history for bone and joint disorders. Knowledge can prompt prevention.
• Get an appropriate amount of exercise. Find a physical activity that you enjoy, and ease into it.
• Add weightlifting to your routine for stronger bones. This may help resist falls.
• Be cautious of your diet. Make sure that you are getting enough calcium and vitamin D.
• Check with your healthcare provider before beginning any type of diet or exercise program.
The U.S. Bone and Joint Decade/Initiative (USBJD/I) which is part of the global Bone and Joint Decade, is an initiative to raise awareness of musculoskeletal health, stimulate research and improve people’s quality of life. For more information on the USBJD/I, please visit www.usbji.org.