Our musculoskeletal system is constructed of bones, muscles, and joints. The bones attach to each other at a joint, where strong tissues called tendons and ligaments help connect the bones. On the ends of each bone is a lining of smooth, protective cartilage and soft tissues (synovial membranes) that produce a liquid called synovial fluid. Your bones are cushioned by cartilage and lubricated by synovial membranes, so that they will not rub against each other. Joints are designed to let you move your body and support your weight as you go through life. Taking care to safeguard and maintain healthy joints can help you avoid nagging pain and injury as you age.
As we age and grow older, our joints and bones are unfortunately not as strong as they once were, as they weaken due to wear and tear or the development of conditions. Bone growth and healing slows down compared to the rapid regrowth of younger years. Your cartilage may start to deteriorate from the normal wear and tear of everyday life. The protective membranes and fluids in your joints begin to dry up.
These changes may cause the bones to have friction, and rub against each other painfully. You may also notice that some joints have changed shape, especially in your fingers or toes. These may be minor annoyances to some, but sometimes joint pain and deformities can make it very hard to function, and eventually you may need to have surgery or have the joint replaced.
While there is unfortunately no magic pill that you can take or food that you can eat that will keep you looking and feeling youthful forever, there are many things you can do to keep your mind and body in good condition as you age. After all, life expectancy and overall quality of life are getting longer and higher every year thanks to modern medicine. How you prepare your body for the long haul will determine your happiness and healthiness for years to come.
September is Healthy Aging Month, a month designed to focus national attention on the positive aspects of growing older, and how to stay healthy while doing it. Here are some things you can do to protect your joints as you age.
1. Maintain a healthy weight: The majority of weight loss is about what you put in your mouth, meaning your diet. As your body (and gravity) naturally puts a lot of weight on your joints, keeping excess weight off can literally take a load off your joints (hips, knees and ankles). When you carry around extra weight, it begins to cause aches and pains on your tendons and joints, and limits your mobility as you age.
2. Eat a balanced diet: Eating a diet that is full of fruits and vegetables, and low in fat and cholesterol is important to keep your body and mind in good shape. According to a study published in Journals of Gerontology, consuming more fiber has been linked to a better chance of healthy aging. It is believed that people who get adequate amounts of fiber tend to live longer. Seek out foods that are high in antioxidants, such as bright fruits and vegetables, and deep greens. Try to incorporate more fresh fish into your diet, and less red meat and fried foods. A balanced diet is essential for good heart health, and overall health. You can exercise all you want, but what your diet consists of makes all the difference.
3. See your doctor regularly: For people 55 and older, seeing your doctor regularly is extremely important. It is important to schedule regular check-ups with your doctor to make sure that your body is healthy. Testing may be recommended by your doctor, even if you are healthy. The goal of these visits is to find problems early or before they start. Identifying health problems early can increase your chances of successful treatment, and decrease the chances of developing further complications.
4. Get moving: Regular exercise helps keep your body young, even as you age. Let’s not forget that routine physical activity will also help you maintain the healthy weight. After 40 years of age, adults who get 30 minutes or more per day find themselves in much better health than those who don’t. As we age, our blood vessels become stiff, causing our blood pressure to increase. The best way to fix this issue of hypertension, is to get your blood pumping with some cardio.
If you follow this advice, you will have a much higher chance of living a long and healthy life, and hopefully experience less pain in your bones and joints. Healthy living is something that you must stride towards each day, and a little bit of effort can go a long way when you are consistent. Eat healthy, go to your check-ups, get your daily exercise in, because your joints will thank you for it.
To learn more on how to safeguard your joints, call Orthopaedic Associates at (440) 892-1440 to request an appointment.