Medicine to Move You

More and more, I find women are apprehensive about starting medications for osteoporosis or osteopenia.  The most common of these pharmaceuticals, called bisphosphonates, include popular brands like Fosamax, Boniva, and Actonel.  Due to an increasing concern about the risks of such therapy, patients are choosing to refuse or, at the least, delay initiating treatment for their less-than-optimal bone density.  Many might work on optimizing calcium intake as their first prevention strategy.  Others are in-the-know and are getting checked for Vitamin D deficiency and treating with supplementation to reach the magic range of “50-100.”

However, in all of the discussions, there is one important factor that is rarely addressed.  Our aging population is more and more sedentary and slowly losing their natural maintenance process of BALANCE.   Balance is a messaging system that lets us know where our bodies are in the environment and how to maintain a desired position- and for most of us (rambunctious boys excluded) how to avoid falling.  Normal balance depends on information from the inner ear, senses such as touch, sight and muscle movement.

If you think about it, the most preventative strategy to avoid a hip fracture is to avoid the fall in the first place.  And how is that done- MOVING!  As the popular saying goes, “use it or lose it.”  There are cultures around the world where seniors are walking every day, working in the farm, lifting, bending, carrying, squatting- whatever their bodies will allow. They don’t let their age get in the way of their duties.  Society and community support their tremendous value and help them be as productive and healthy as possible.  This is a major theme in The Blue Zones by Dan Buettner- an inspiring book about the commonalities of the healthiest seniors around the world.  

Conversely, American seniors are cultured to believe this societal message- “You are old.  Your body can’t do what it used to.  Give up and take it easy.  Don’t walk.  You might fall.  Don’t exercise.  It’s too late for that to make a difference.  Just sit around and wait for the end,  Of course, your bones are going to turn brittle but there’s really nothing you can do about it- except maybe taking a pill.”

I say- let’s help our seniors believe a new reality.  Let’s help them get active.  Slowly, safely and as tolerated at first.  But with every step, a new confidence and power will emerge.  Who knows… perhaps the next step will bring them to a Gentle Yoga class as offered at the Center for Living Wellness.  Yoga, if you haven’t tried it, is uniquely designed to be an exercise of mind, body and balance.  I don’t know anyone who couldn’t use a little more of that type of reconditioning.

So, how about this for a healthcare reform strategy.  Let’s encourage a shift in perspective about aging- a shift towards graceful, vibrant, functionally productive aging.   What if seniors believed they could change their lifestyle to help themselves, and a whole family, community or nation rallied behind them.  We would see more seniors in our world because they would no longer trapped in their homes.  A better quality and quantity of life would seem inevitable.  Of course, I am not ready to run for political office on this platfom, but I invite you to take a stance.  Help a senior in your life get back to the world of movement and you will bring them balance of body, mind and spirit.  The best part of the whole deal- you evolve to be a better person when you show your respect and honor a senior.  Trust me…I was raised Asian Indian and we live and breathe this doctrine for that very reason. 

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