Maintaining skeletal health after 40
Bone density naturally decreases with age, so the older you are, the more
risk increases for diseases such as
arthritis. Sedentary women are also more at risk. Besides, there are certain
lifestyle factors that boost the chances of weakened
drinking excessive alcohol or caffeine and eating a mineral-poor
In addition, certain medications can weaken your
bones. These include antacids
with aluminum, some anticonvulsants, certain cholesterol-lowering drugs, and
various others. Be sure to talk to your doctor and read the package insert
when you’re prescribed a drug to find out its side effects.
The results of the SDSU
study (published in 2003), which measured the bone density of 27 masters
cyclists, showed researchers just how significantly bones can deteriorate
when not subjected to the rigors of
load-bearing activities such as
Although doctors do not know the precise cause of rheumatoid arthritis it is
thought to be an auto-immune disease in which the
immune system starts to attack
its own tissues. The most commonly affected areas are the
hands and feet,
followed by the knees, wrists, neck and ankles, although the disease can affect
any joint in the body. Initial symptoms may include fatigue and fever followed
by stiffness and swelling in the joints. Joint pain can become so bad that it
restricts movement and in severe cases, bones may fuse together, making movement
in the joint impossible.
Rheumatoid arthritis affects more women than men (in a 3:1 ratio) and usually
appears between the ages of 40 and 50, although it can also appear in younger
people, and is often accompanied by mild
Treating the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis
You should always receive conventional medical diagnosis and treatment for
rheumatoid arthritis. Doctors may recommend immuno-suppressant drugs or, in
severe cases, joint replacement. Complementary therapies can be useful for
symptom relief. Dietary therapists may recommend limiting animal fats in the
diet and taking supplements such as multivitamins,
vitamin B complex,
vitamin E (except when anti-coagulant drugs are being taken), glucosamine
sulphate and zinc. An elimination diet may also be recommended if it is
suspected that the disease is related to a food intolerance. Joint mobility can
be helped by
swimming, and pain can be eased by applying gentle heat to the
As the joints age they become prone to osteoarthritis. The cartilage in the
joint wears away and the ends of the bones may rub together and develop growths
which are known as spurs. The symptoms include joint pain that is exacerbated by
movement, stiffness in the morning and bony growths on the fingers.
Osteoarthritis usually affects joints that have been subjected to excessive wear
and tear. It is common in weight-bearing joints that have been overused in the
past. Too much kneeling, for example, may cause osteoarthritis in the knees.
There is no definitive cure for osteoarthritis; treatment consists mainly of
pain relief and, occasionally, joint replacement surgery. Being
places unnecessary stress on the joints, so an important part of preventative
care is maintaining a
healthy weight or losing weight
if necessary. Try to keep
joints as strong and as flexible as possible by taking regular
healthy diet that is low in
saturated fats, and high in fish oils may also be
Supportive action for osteoarthritis
It is thought that damaging substances known as free radicals may play a major
part in arthritis. Taking an antioxidant
supplement can help combat free radical
damage to the joints. Dietary therapists also recommend taking a daily
supplement of gamma-linolenic acid (GLA). If you suffer from osteoarthritis, you
should avoid tasks, such as carrying heavy bags, which place unnecessary
stresses and strains on the affected joints. Swim regularly and consult a
physiotherapist about specific exercises to prevent muscle wasting around the
affected joints. Useful complementary treatments that you may wish to try
include osteopathy and chiropractic.
As you grow older, everyday stresses and strains on the spine can build up and
result in chronic back problems. The people most likely to suffer are manual
workers, office workers, the overweight and the
elderly. Back pain is usually
caused by muscle or ligament strain or disc problems.
Preventing back complaints
The mainstay of preventative care is regular exercise that
muscles. Both swimming and yoga are excellent. You should also pay careful
attention to your posture when sitting, standing and lying. If you work at a
desk make sure that it is at a comfortable height and that your chair offers
lower back support. Be careful how you lift heavy items – always bend at the
hips and knees, taking the weight on your legs and keeping your back straight.
Never lift and twist at the same time.
If you have back pain, there are a number of things that you can do to relieve
Lie flat on your back with your knees bent.
Apply a cold compress to the affected area.
Make a hot compress, of camomile, rosemary, eucalyptus and lavender essential
oils. Allow up to 8 drops of essential oil per 100ml of hot water. Soak muslin
in the water and oil, squeeze out excess and apply to the back. Place a warm
towel over the compress and leave for at least 2 hours. (Eucalyptus may cause
skin irritation, so use sparingly.)
Hot showers may ease pain.
Make sure your back is adequately supported by your chair and mattress.
Sleep on your side with your knees bent and a pillow between them (or on your
back with pillows beneath your knees).