Without meaning to sound like the proverbial broken record, NH21 Weekly’s review of global health news noticed several worrying articles relating to humankind’s propensity to stagnate.

Having discussed this very issue previously (see NH21 Weekly “No pain, Much gain” from February 10th, 2017) it seems that exercise levels begin to decline long before adolescence and that sitting is replacing physical activity from the time children start school. (1)

The British Journal of Sports Medicine (BJSM) who instigated a cohort study of children aged 7-15 over an 8-year period, conclude that;

Public health policy should focus on preventing the decline in physical activity which begins in childhood.”

BJSM also note that although children should get at least an hour of exercise each day;

On average, boys spend only 51 minutes exercising by aged15; with the average girl doing moderate to strenuous physical activity for only 41 minutes.”

Fast forward a mere 30-40 years or so, and we see the bone ‘disease’ Osteoporosis affecting over three million people in the UK alone; with figures from the International Osteoporosis Foundation claiming it affects up to 200 million women worldwide, with 1 in 3 women, and 1 in 5 men, over the age of 50 likely to experience osteoporotic fractures in their lifetime. (2)

That women should bare this burden more frequently than men, is more the result of hormonal changes post-menopause, than being less inclined to exercise in youth.

All the same, there is a tendency to target young females for preventative lifestyle advice due to the increased likelihood of developing an affliction that, in women over 45 years of age, accounts for more days spent in hospital than diseases including diabetes, myocardial infarction and even breast cancer.

SPORT TO THE RESCUE!

NH21 loves sport as much as it does natural health practice; and was inspired by two recent articles promoting the benefits of sport to women.

First was the English FA’s launch of a new “Gameplan for Growth” that aims to double the number of girls and women taking part in football by 2020; utilizing strategies that;

“Focus on key areas like developing talent and infrastructure, increasing the number and diversity of women’s coaches, referees and administrators, changing perceptions and social barriers to taking part, enhancing the profile and value of the England team, and improving the commercial prospects of women’s football.” (3)

Second was an interview entitled ‘Confident and Strong’ with world surf champion Tyler Wright, in which she discusses body image among the potential reasons for girls not wanting to partake in sport.

“There are all different shapes and sizes,” she says. “I’m shorter and compact and a very solid unit. For me that’s what I’m used to and what I love.” (4)

PREVENTION BETTER THAN CURE?

Osteoporosis is a condition that weakens bones, making them fragile and more likely to break. It develops slowly over several years and is often only diagnosed when a minor fall or sudden impact causes a bone fracture.

Yet bones are not lifeless structures. The outer layer of bone is hard and dense, but inside is porous with spaces for bone marrow. The matrix within bone is arranged in multiple layers with central canals containing blood vessels and nerve fibres.

Bones are made up of a fibrous material called collagen, that has mineral deposits packed into it, the principle two being calcium and phosphorus. The deposition of calcium and phosphorus in bones is a dynamic process; throughout life there is a constant turnover of minerals and bone cells.

Osteocytes (bone cells), like any bodily cell, require access to nutrients, nervous impulses, hormones and waste disposal. The term ‘Peak Bone Density’ (PBD) describes bones at their strongest and most mineral rich; which is normally achieved at around 30 years of age.

Loss of bone density is a normal part of the ageing process, but some people lose bone density much faster than others. This can lead to osteoporosis and an increased risk of fractures.

According to Juliet Compston, Professor of Bone Medicine at the University of Cambridge; for long-term bone health it is important to start early.

“After the age of 40, everyone starts to lose bone. If you live to 90, you’ll have thinnish bones, whatever you do. For strong bones you need good genes, plus plenty of weight-bearing exercise, to avoid smoking or excess alcohol, stay in the normal weight range and get adequate vitamin D from sunlight and calcium from the diet.” (5)

For those that did not receive this advice soon enough, there are medical treatments available in the form of drugs called bisphosphonates.

Unfortunately, like all chemical drugs, these band-aids suppress the symptoms rather than encourage actual healing, and are now known to cause adverse reactions in the elderly which include; (6)

  • Osteonecrosis of the jaw – a disease caused by reduced blood flow by which bones start to die and break down.
  • Atrial fibrillation – a heart condition that causes an irregular and often abnormally fast heart rate.
  • Suppression of bone turnover – the prevention of new bone cells forming at all.

It remains to be seen if future generations will look back on such medical ‘treatments’ as absurd, illogical and bizarre. For now, let us remember that crisis care (of advanced conditions) requires crisis management (in the form of synthetic chemical medications).

For the youth of today however, and for the parents, guardians and teachers tasked with the education of pre-PBD bodies and minds; it is surely appropriate to encourage physical activity and mineral dense diets to diminish the possibility of developing conditions such as osteoporosis in older age.

Osteoporosis, which translates simply as “porous bones”, begs the questions of whether it is should be classified as a disease at all; or a merely a literal description of the types of symptoms that can occur through a lifetime of poor diet and sedentary living.

NH21 salutes the work of BJSM and hopes that it spurs people into action, literally, in order to safeguard their personal health and avoid the perils of orthodox western ‘medicine’ in future years.

References:

1: http://bjsm.bmj.com/content/early/2017/02/05/bjsports-2016-096933

2: https://www.iofbonehealth.org/facts-statistics#category-14

3: http://www.thefa.com/news/2017/mar/13/fa-womens-football-strategy-gameplan-for-growth-double-participation-130317

4: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/mar/14/tyler-wright-surfing-champion-on-new-power-women?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other

5: http://www.med.cam.ac.uk/compston/

6: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2704135/