Treating My Osteopenia

osteopeniaGrowing old. What a nuisance. Wrinkles, gray hair, enlargement of the suborbicularis oculi fat pads – a.k.a. eye bags big enough to pack a picnic lunch. And now bones returning to dust right inside of me.

This tirade stems from the results of my Dual X-ray (DXA) bone densitometry test. In the past eleven years, my osteopenia has gotten worse (surely, it’s a measurement error!) to greatly increasing my risk of hip and spine fractures as I age. (But I love to ice skate – talk about falls!)

No surprise as I have so many risks: older, white, small-boned female, lowish BMI (cosmetically slim), never took estrogen, bisphosphonates (Actonel) did nothing, used to smoke, loves wine (modestly reduces calcium absorption) and coffee (modestly increases calcium excretion).

My diet is balanced enough, albeit lowish in protein because I don’t eat much meat and eggs and, like most others, I don’t meet my personal requirements for calcium and vitamin D: 1,200 milligrams of calcium – some say 1,500 – and 600 i.u. of vitamin D– some say 800) per day. And what about boron, vitamin K, phosphorous, and other key nutrients for bone health? I’ll comment only if you ask.

I do eat yogurt faithfully and, sometimes, milk in cereal. I eat my dark leafy greens and nuts and, sometimes, fish with bones; however, calcium from plants is not well-absorbed (oxalates and phytates interfere with absorption), I rarely drink a glass of milk or eat cheese, and I never have calcium-fortified orange juice or breakfast bars. (Personal preference: yuck!) According to the lab, I’m not vitamin D deficient (vitamin D is needed for calcium absorption), but I’m sure I don’t eat enough fatty fish, liver, cod liver oil, egg yolks, radiated mushrooms, or fortified milk – most yogurt is not fortified  – and I don’t get enough strong sun. But I’m not about to eat more because, as a short older women, I practically can’t eat without gaining weight. (Young ones, wait and see.)

And so, I have to take supplemental calcium and vitamin D. I take Nature Made adult gummies Calcium with Vitamin D3 four a day at doses of 500 mg or less between meals to increase absorption. (Add another 150 calories.) These suplements are acceptable because, frankly, they taste like candy. Each gummie contains 250 milligrams of calcium and 350 i.u. of vitamin D, which should keep me within the Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL) for  gender and age. The calcium is tricalcium phosphate, a well absorbed source, and vitamin D3 (vs. D2), the best form. Still, research tells me not to expect much.

Weight-bearing exercise also helps to build bone. I walk a lot, jump on the mini-trampoline a bit and do Pilates consistently. But that doesn’t cut it. Now, I have to take up running or jumping up onto and down from a box at least 15 inches high to generate enough force to help build bone. (See the New York Times, Why High-Impact Exercise Is Good for Your Bones.) Since 15 inches is more than a quarter of my height, jumping on the box won’t work, and if I liked to run, I’d have done it by now, but like the supplements, it’s therapeutic. What a nuisance.

Your thoughts: Have you had a bone densitometry test? What did it reveal? Do you take calcium supplements?

Got To Do It: Take a Hike!

trail marker for the Appalachian Trail.This past weekend, I went hiking on a bit of the Appalachian Trail in the Delaware Water Gap. (That’s the Delaware River on the New Jersey-Pennsylvania border, not Delaware, the second smallest state.) The A.T. is a marked hiking trail running from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mount Katahdin in Maine. I decided that I will hike the entire A.T. in sections over the next twenty years. I might have done 20 miles so far. Just 2180 left to go.

Sandee Takes a Hike Sandee Ostwind Hiking in the Delaware Water Gap

This is my friend, Sandee, a 60 year old woman who had not hiked a day in her life until last October. The very idea makes her daughter convulse with laughter. Sandee is still not your typical hiker (“Let’s sit down and take a rest.”); however, she enjoys it immensely. Why? Sandee says, “Hiking has everything – physical, mental, spiritual. I feel great about myself when I finish a hike.”

Mountain LaurelMountain Laurel

Kalmia latifolia, the flowering evergreen shrub, blooms in May and June in the mountainous forests of the Eastern United States. The Mid-Atlantic States are blanketed this week. White flowers in the shade and pink flowers in the sun.

 

Damn You, New York Times!

Circada on a leaf

Little Circada

I’m mad at The New York Times, with their multimedia features and images enlarged 100 times, for scaring me about cicadas. Cicadas are insects that crawl out of the ground every 17 years for a three-to-four-week frenzy of mating before they deposit their nymphs underground and die. We saw cicadas on leaves, and they are cute little critters. First, we heard them (Is that the sound of a broken fan belt? You decide…) and then we saw them on leaves here and there. Their swarming actually takes place 40 feet above in the trees. Not once did a molted carcass fall on my head.

Your thoughts, do you hike? What do you like about it?

Walk Like Your Life Depends on It

A bloggers holiday for me this week. Hurricane Sandy canceled life. Not that I’ve been inconvenienced in the least little bit up here in the “Heights.” Okay, my beloved Prospect Park and Brooklyn Botanic Garden are closed and my ride is busted for the foreseeable future. You may recall from past blogs (If You See Something, Say Something, Three Degrees of Separation from “Snackman” and Heineken Takes Over the NYC MTA) that I ride the New York City subway. Now, for me, the subway goes in one direction, East. To get to Manhattan, I can either wait in an insanely long line to catch a shuttle bus across the bridge or walk or ride my bike. Thank God I’m in shape.

insane line

Walking, Walking

The other day, my daughter and I walked to Dumbo to see the destruction (not bad). The walk was three miles there and three miles back. Whoops! I wore the wrong shoes. To get to Manhattan from my apartment, it is four miles to the other side of the Brooklyn Bridge, and then it’s another three miles up to 34th street where the power works.

I have read that the average American walks only 350 yards a day, which is around 1/5th of a mile. That a total of 1.4 miles a week. Pretty useless, don’t you think?  I have not seen it written, but I believe it makes sense for everyone, except for the most infirmed, to be able to walk at least ten (that’s 10) miles a day. You don’t have to feel great at the end, but you should be able to do it. And so, if you can’t walk a distance, then start with this 10K (6.2 mile) Walk Training Schedule for Beginners from the Guide to Walking at About.com. You never know when your life might depend on it.

Your thoughts: Can you walk a 10K?

Building A Better Sidewalk

Subway grates and sidewalk beds

Recently in Scientific American, Better Sidewalks Could Bring Improved Public Health:
A new report recommends 43 public health changes that can make big improvements in overcoming preventable diseases. “To arrive at their recommendations, researchers reviewed more than a thousand studies of public health. Their findings are in the American Heart Association journal, Circulation. [Dariush Mozaffarian et al., Population Approaches to Improve Diet, Physical Activity and Smoking Habits.]  Some surprisingly simple suggestions could be easiest to institute. (For instance) try improving sidewalks and visual appeal of neighborhoods to make people want to walk, bike, or run more often.”

Around the corner from my Brooklyn apartment, policy makers have put the sidewalk recommendation into action. For quite awhile now, like maybe two years, the NYC Department of Design and Construction have been working on the Eastern Parkway Reconstruction Project from Washington Avenue at the Brooklyn Museum to Grand Army Plaza. They installed water mains and sewer replacements and now they are finishing up the pavement, curbs, sidewalks, bike path, catch basins, pedestrian ramps, green spaces, street lighting, and traffic signals. The job is nearly finished.

And so, this is a public health project in action, a benefit of city living, not so “surprisingly simple,” but easier than beating down each individual to change. I, for one, need no encouragement to use the sidewalks and bike path.

Your thoughts: Does your town have good sidewalks?

Do You Know (How to) Squat?

My readers and friends know that I take great care of my hips. My hips have been sensitive since the Aughts, when I worked for corporations in the cube. Ergo consults…a footrest, nothing helped.

Now, I still sit to work at home, but I use an ergonomically designed knee chair and I stand as much as possible. (I am standing with my laptop on the counter as I write.)  I swear by hip exercises as well, but the one movement that helps my hips most is the squat. The squat stretches the five hip adductors going from the pelvis to the thigh bone and from the pelvis to the knee. It helps the quadriceps, hamstrings and glutes too. I squat on my knee chair and on the floor.

Westerners Don’t Know Squat

I believe westerners are neglecting a basic self-care activity by failing to routinely squat. In the Far East, India, Middle East, and Africa, squatting takes the place of sitting. Asians squat with their heels on the ground and knees aligned with the direction of their toes, but most Americans can’t place their feet on flat ground because their Achilles tendons have been shortened by wearing shoes and sitting in chairs. Their quads are weak, their hips don’t extend, and they fall over backwards when they squat.

How to Do the “Asian Squat”

To squat like an Asian, it’s important to first build up your Achilles tendons with foot and ankle exercises. And then, start by squatting with your back against a wall to prevent falling backwards. Keep your feet wide apart, align your knees over your feet, lower yourself slowly, rest your arms on your knees, and don’t sit down on the dirty ground! Next, practice squatting away from the wall with your back hunched over your knees. Now practice again and again until squatting is perfunctory.

Daniel Hsia, young filmmaker extraordinaire and bro of my pal, Sue Hsia Lew, made this video, “How to do the Asian Squat,” back in 2002. In my mind, Daniel’s spoof is a great public health intervention. Enjoy!

Your thoughts: Can you do the Asian Squat?

Also about hip exercises:
30 Days on the Rebound(er): Jumping on the Mini-trampoline

Jumping on the Mini-trampoline, 30 Days Later


Pedal Power, Think About It

This woman is using a stationary bicycle to power a generator to run electrical devices. The generator might be on the other side of the blue tarp. The picture was taken at Zucotti Park, the Occupy Wall Street camp in New York City last fall. When you think about it, why aren’t we using human power to generate electricity and turn mechanical cranks more often? Pedal power offers so many solutions: fuel, exercise, disaster-preparedness, and “the obesity crisis”. Pedal power could be mandatory to run laptops and TVs. (Calories burned: Stationary Bicycle: 333/hour; Sitting Quietly: 47/hour) There is really no reason NOT to have a pedal power generator. Even in my small apartment, I could keep the apparatus in the basement. To bring pedal power into your life, read this article: Pedal powered farms and factories: the forgotten future of the stationary bicycle

Your thoughts: Do you know anyone who generates energy by pedal power?

Helping Cassey Ho

Cassey Ho is a Pilates instructor, YouTube fitness guru, blogger and online community leader, and designer of yoga bags. When you count her blog subscribers and social networking fans, she has around 185,000 followers. Cassey is an exceptionally hard-working young woman who will probably go far in the fitness world. I met Cassey online a few weeks ago when I helped her with a dilemma.

Cassey wrote: Lately, some of my fans have attacked me for “triggering” their eating disorder and body image disorder tendencies because I’ve been talking extra about weight loss and dieting because it’s bikini season. The blog that started it is Best Celebrity Bikini Bodies…thanks to PILATES!  Some have said that I may have an eating disorder or body image disorder myself! They’ve even gone as far as to say that I should have my posts looked over by a psychologist to analyze the potential messages I am sending out. As a professional, what do you think?

I wrote back:  I think “triggers” are everywhere for people with psychological disorders. I believe that anyone who feels vulnerable should beware of potentially triggering experiences that they can control (e.g. don’t buy fashion magazines, don’t visit certain websites or watch certain TV shows, etc.) The really difficult triggers are those stressful life situations, including trauma and loss, that they can’t control. Ideally, a trigger will start a conversation. It is rich material for mental health therapy.

As to whether celebrities like Miley Cyrus and Cassey Ho have disordered eating patterns, I cannot say without a proper assessment. But Americans, and the world for that matter, like their celebrities to be thin. Most celebrities exercise an lot and are very careful not to over-eat. How else could they look that way? They have millions of dollars resting on it.

But when does self-care – a desire to exercise and eat right – turn into a disorder? When a person’s “love for diet and exercise” precludes enjoying a variety of wholesome foods in the amount needed to maintain a healthy weight, and when someone’s exercise program is so intense that it leads to injuries, exhaustion, and irritability, then that’s a problem. But, if not, then go girl! Cassey’s readers, and anyone, should take The Eating Attitudes Test (EAT-26), the most widely used, standardized self-report measure of concerns and symptoms of eating and exercise disorders. It is a screening test that indicates a need for professional evaluation.

The Dilemma

Heck, I owe my bikini (or one piece swimsuit) body to Pilates. I go to Pilates three times a week and try never to miss. But for non-celebrities like me, after a certain point, say 60 minutes of exercise 5-6 times a week and healthy eating 85 percent of the time, chasing the perfect body has diminishing returns. After health habits are in check, time is better spent working on inner qualities and making the world a better place. How about helping the SPARK Movement, a girl-fueled activist movement, to demand an end to the sexualization of women and girls in media. They are collaborating with hundreds of girls ages 13 to 22. And, for heaven’s sake, don’t take diet advice from a celebrity! As I told Diets In Review, Miley Cyrus Stays Trim Following a Gluten-Free Diet is not a good idea. Every modified diet, including vegan and raw food diets, carries a nutritional risk because so many foods are omitted.

Cassey had many more questions, and you can read my answers at Bringing it to Light: Eating Disorders on Bloglates.com. I thank Cassey for trusting my professional advice, and I wish her smooth sailing in her work to bring health to the masses.

Your thoughts: Have you ever wondered if you have an eating or body image disorder?

Little Green Algae Saves the Day

Truth be told, it’s going outside that gets me to exercise at all. I’m dependent on the beauty of nature. The gym is not for me. On most days, I walk outside in the gardens and parks and on the sidewalks because I don’t own a car. I made a Prospect Park Pinterest page to post some of the photos I take in Brooklyn’s Botanic Garden and Prospect Park with my crappy phone. This week I am gaga about the pond scum – algae – growing on the water in the ancient artificial pond in The Vale of Cashmere. The Vale is aptly described as “a strangely forsaken forest idyll in Prospect Park” in this photo essay. The lush formal garden is sunk into a glacial kettle where the wildlife live and play.

I ♥ Pond Scum

Pond scum – algae – are as much animal as plant. They contain chlorophyll and other plant pigments, but they don’t have stems, roots, or leaves. They have a true nucleus (plant cells do not) enclosed in a cell membrane with lots of DNA functions going on inside.

Someday, algae could save the world. Scientists are growing algae that convert sugars into hydrocarbon fuel to replace oil, plus algae can convert sugars into fat that, compared to traditional fats, has a healthier nutrient composition, a smooth mouth-feel and a rich taste that makes it perfect for baked goods. This new, sustainable fat works as a partial substitute for butter, eggs and even meat and growing it takes up so little space. We already eat algae as carrageenan, Irish moss seaweed, in ice cream, soy milk, and beer. Craig Venter, algae geneticist and entrepreneur, tells Scientific American, “Algae is a farming problem: growing, harvesting, extracting. It’s a work in progress, and we’re working hard.”

Pond scum saves the world! How great is that?

Your thoughts: Are you an algae fan?

Take the Stairs (and Burn 7 Calories)

Upon visiting my apartment, a new friend said, “I would never buy a walk-up. There are too many stairs.”  I don’t share my friend’s opinion. I prefer to be grateful when “forced to be fit.”

My building was erected in 1916.  I live on the third of four floors. From the sidewalk, there are 39 steps to my apartment door. The 39 Steps like the Alfred Hitchcock 1935 film, and The 39 Steps Monsterpiece Theater classic. (Remember Grover?)  And almost like The 40 Steps on the Newport Cliff Walk back at home.

In total, there are 39 stairs, plus 33 walking steps across the lobby and the landings. I climb the 39 steps many time throughout the day to check the mail, throw away the trash, enter the basement, and leave the house in general, plus repeat in forgetfulness. Not to shabby in the stair climbing department, right? Not so fast.

One round of 39 steps takes me half a minute. I timed it. I burn six calories going up and one calorie going down – 7 calories for one round of 39 steps! I found that at Calorie Count. They calculate that I burn 381 calories per hour climbing up stairs. Because I helped the developers, I know those figures are based on The Compendium of Physical Activities, the last word on calories burned in activities, no matter how mundane.

I think most people would have guessed more than seven calories for my steps, but it just goes to show how efficient our bodies are. And so, if I do 10 rounds of steps, I burn 70 calories. That’s the calories in one apple, or ten almonds, or 1½ Oreo cookies, etc. – for 10 rounds. I think most people would have guessed more.

Your thoughts: Are you surprised by that measly number?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jumping on the Mini-trampoline, 30 Days Later

Last month, I sort of made a commitment to jump on the mini-trampoline for 30 days, and now I am here to report the results: 12 days of jumping / 30 days = 100% success in my book. I’m happy because I decided that 30 days of anything is a bore and 30 days of one exercise constitutes over-doing it. This is what else I found:

Jumping is Fun
There’s a reason why kids like bouncy castles and jumping on the bed. I am outta here if it’s not fun.

Jumping Uses the Upper Body
It’s not easy to find an aerobic activity that engages the upper body, but with the jumping jacks, upper body twists, basket ball hops, and others, I’m working harder than I would on the treadmill or bike.

Jumping is Plyometric
Pylometerics are the single most important kind of exercise you can do to strengthen the bones. With plyometrics, the muscles are repeatedly employed, rapidly stretched (“loaded”) and then contracted, as in jumping high off the ground or in push-ups with a clap between. Jumps (two feet), hops (one foot) and bounds (taking off on one foot and landing on the other) are all plyometric moves on the mini-trampoline.

Jumping Aggravates Stress Urinary Incontinence
Not that I have it, but I can see where jumping and running would cause urine to leak, especially in aging boomer females who are mothers. I learned that, before jumping, it’s important to empty the bladder and not to forget that Kegels call.

Jumping is No Substitute for Daily Hip Exercises
As I’ve explained, I met my lifetime sitting quota while working in the corporations and now I have to undo the damage to my hips. I swear that without these hip exercises from my favorite About.com guide, the Guide to Sports Medicine, I would be in perpetual pain, but with them, I am fine.

Jumping Helps Skating; Skating Helps Hips
Last week, I went ice skating and I remembered how good it is for the hips, the glutes and the groin. My ice skating is enhanced by the cardio workout, plyometrics and balance involved in jumping on the mini-trampoline. And, I hope my bones are strong in case I fall. New commitment: I plan to skate once a week followed by a Hot Toddy and an epsom salt bath.

And so, I’ve changed my commitment to match my reality: 2-3 days a week of jumping on the mini-trampoline (from JumpSport Fitness), plus walking for transportation, Pilates twice a week, passive stretching, some ice skating, and stuff for my hips. Now there’s no time for anything else. How’s that for commitment?

Your thoughts:  What’s your commitment to healthy movement?

See 30 Days on the Rebound(er): Jumping on the Mini-trampoline