Make No Bones About It!!
Taking care of our bones is very important! They do a lot for us: protect our vital organs, anchor our muscles and bank minerals like magnesium and calcium to ensure the body is able to maintain the proper levels required for functions such as normal heart rhythm, muscle contraction, nerve function and more.
There are some risk factors for osteoporosis that are not modifiable such as age, gender and family history. But there are changes we can make to our habits and behaviors to reduce our risk. These include:
Kick the smoking habit
Don’t consume alcohol in excess
Maintain a Healthy Weight. Older adults who are overweight have a higher risk for falling. Being underweight raises the risk of bone loss.
Adopting a more active lifestyle that includes weight bearing exercise
Eat a more nutrient dense diet rich in the vitamins and minerals required either directly or indirectly to build bone. I wrote about the “bone bank” in this article and discussed how the balance changes over time and depends heavily on us to make regular nutrient “deposits” with the foods that we eat.
If we fail to do out part to maintain our bones then we are at greater risk of developing osteoporosis.
Is there a Connection Between MS & Osteoporosis?
Research suggests that Multiple Sclerosis is associated with a decreased bone mineral density which contributes to a greater risk for developing osteopaenia, osteoporosis or bone fractures. The more progressive the disease, the more severe the bone loss. There are a number of possible explanations for low bone mineral density in individuals with MS;
The impact of pro-inflammatory cytokines and chronic inflammation associated with the MS disease process
Progressive disability, immobility, lack of weight bearing physical activity
Impaired balance and gait control which can lead to increased falls. When this is combined with low bone mineral density, increased fractures can result.
Long term glucocorticoid use ( greater than 3-4 months) can result in weakened bones.
Long term use of certain anti-depressants
A diet deficient in vitamin D, Calcium and other vital nutrients
Prevention is more effective than treatment of established osteoporosis
Two important things you can do to improve your bone health with MS:
#1 Move Your Body to Strengthen Your Bones!
Exercise is a very important part of keeping your bones strong. Weight bearing exercises apply a mechanical stress to the bones which provides them with the workout they need to stay strong. Good forms of exercise include:
hiking, dancing, jogging, tennis, and climbing stairs are examples of high impact weight bearing exercises.
using an elliptical trainer, a treadmill or taking a walk are good examples of low impact weight bearing exercises
lifting weights or using elastic exercise bands to improve strength
tai chi or yoga to increase muscle strength and improve balance
Consult your MD before starting a new exercise regimen. Check out the links below for more information about exercising with MS.
I have had a number of people tell me that they think exercise will be difficult and require a lot of special equipment or routines. This great resource from MS Active Source demonstrates that physical activity does not have to be too terribly complicated. Check it out!
Can Do MS : They offer a lot of information on MS topics as well as a webinar series on a variety of topics including exercise.
ActiveMSers.org is a great resource! They provide ” practical information on how to stay active (physically, intellectually, and socially)—when traveling, playing in the outdoors, exercising, or just plain enjoying life—regardless of our disease and the sometimes devastating symptoms it throws at us.” There are lot of tips and considerations for specific exercises. There is downloadable information available here as well.
The National MS Society offers some additional information about exercising with MS.
#2 Feed Your Body to Feed Your Bones!