Think about every little thing that you do day in and day out. Walking, running, eating, cooking, driving, talking and even breathing – have one thing in common. These cannot be done without your Musculoskeletal system. Might sound confusing, but you know it quite well! This powerful system is made up of bones, muscles, cartilages, tendons, ligaments, joints and other connective tissues that support and bind tissues and organs together. It provides your body with form, support, stability and movement.
Today, let us learn something more about ourselves. In particular, about our muscles and bones and their role in our body.
Muscle is a type of elastic tissue in our body that allows us to move, push, pull, lift and generate force. They are of three types: skeletal muscles that move the external parts (limbs) of the body, cardiac muscles that make your heart beat, and smooth muscles that form the walls of most blood vessels, glands and organs within the body. The human body has around 650 muscles, which make up around 40% of one’s bodyweight.
Bone is a like an organ made up of various types of tissues. Bones protect various organs, produce red and white blood cells, store minerals, provide structure and support to the body, and enable mobility. Bones are classified as: long bones, short bones, flat bones, irregular bones, and sesamoid bones. There are 206 bones in the human body and they make up to 15% of our total body mass.
Do muscles and bones degenerate, and if yes then what are the factors causing muscle and bone loss?
A sedentary lifestyle with a lack of physical activity, poor nutrition (protein and calcium deficient diet), less exposure to sunlight, smoking, alcohol and certain medications, ageing, family history, ethnicity and gender, are factors leading to faster muscle and bone degeneration.
Age-related changes in bones and muscles: Muscles lose size and strength leading to fatigue, weakness and reduced tolerance to exercise. They lose their toning and ability to contract due to changes in the nervous system. This can cause a loss of muscle tissues called muscle atrophy. Bones structure also change and results in a loss of bone tissue. The spinal column becomes curved and compressed, bones become brittle, joints become stiff and less flexible.
Gender: Women are more prone to have lower bone mass due to pregnancy, childbirth and later menopause resulting in depletion of the bones. The estrogen hormone level, which is responsible for maintaining bone density in women drops considerably and thus decreases the bone density leading to higher risk of Osteoporosis (a skeletal disorder characterized by reduced bone strength, predisposing a person to an increased risk of fracture). Though the exact prevalence is not known in India, one in four women older than 50 years is believed to suffer from osteoporosis. After a woman hits her 30s, bone loss sets in gradually and there is a 3-5% loss of muscle mass per decade.
Ethnicity: Studies have shown that Asians have lower bone mass than the Western population and the peak incidence of osteoporosis is believed to occur 10-20 years earlier in Indians compared to their counterparts.
Of the above, aging, gender, ethnicity, family history are factors we cannot control, the rest can all be modified!
How will you know that your bones and muscles have started to degenerate or that you are suffering from some disorder?
Pain in the muscles even without a workout, weakness without any medical ailment, trouble in doing daily tasks, such as grooming or writing or problems with gait/walking and loss of balance are few signs signalling that you might be losing your muscle and bone strength. There typically are no symptoms in the early stages of bone loss for Osteoporosis. But once your bones have been weakened by it, you might have signs of back pain, caused by a fractured or collapsed vertebra; loss of height over time, a stooped posture and bones that breaks much more easily than expected.
So, can we prevent these degenerative disorders?
Yes, we can! Observational studies provide compelling evidence that adopting a healthy lifestyle i.e. a blend good diet and physical activity, cessation of smoking and alcohol and sufficient exposure to sunlight are associated with a reduced risk of premature death due to degenerative disorders.
- Having a balanced diet with sufficient protein and calcium intake, benefits bone and muscle health.
Calcium: Bones and teeth contain 99% of the body’s total calcium, which is utilized by your body and replaced by diet as you function. Limited consumption of calcium rich foods can lead to calcium deficiency in your bones, causing them to get weaker and more fragile as you grow older, which leads to osteoporosis and heightens the possiblity of a fracture. Bones act as a storehouse for calcium, which is used by the body and replaced by the diet throughout a person’s life. If enough calcium is not consumed, the body takes it from the bones. If more calcium is removed from the bones, they become fragile and weak as a person gets older, leading to osteoporosis and fractures. The National Institute of Nutrition recommends a daily intake of 600mg of calcium for adult men and women.
Proteins: Your bones, muscles, cartilage, skin and blood are made up of one important common element – Protein. Protein is an important building block of bones, muscles, cartilage, skin, and blood. Without protein, life as we know and live it would not be possible. A new expert consensus endorsed by the International Osteoporosis Foundation (IOF) has reviewed the benefits and safety of dietary protein for bone health, based on analyses of major research studies. It indicates that a relatively high protein intake is associated with increased bone mineral mass and reduced incidence of osteoporotic fractures. It is recommended to have 1gm protein / kg of your body weight i.e. if you weigh 50kg then your food should provide you 50gms of proteins through the day.
Vitamin D: Improve your bone health by consuming Vitamin D rich foods that increases your body’s ability to absorb calcium. Vitamin D improves your body’s ability to absorb calcium and improves bone health. It’s also involved in various functions of your immune, digestive, circulatory, and nervous systems. You can get your daily dose of Vit D through food, Vit D supplements and exposure to sunlight. RDA of 600-800 IU is recommended to maintain adequate levels of vitamin D.
Make your everyday meals rich in these nutrients by including eggs-bread and milk, milk-oats, idli-sambar, paneer-paratha with curd, palak/methi paratha for breakfast; and have dal / sambar / beans / fish / chicken / greens in your lunch and dinner. Snack on some nuts when you’re hungry between meals and it’s done! Quite simple, isn’t it?
|CALCIUM RICH FOODS||PROTEIN RICH FOODS||VITAMIN D RICH FOODS|
|Almonds||Bengalgram, Blackgram, Greengram, Lentils, Redgram and Quinoa||Fatty Fish and Seafood: Sardines, Tuna, Oysters, Mackerel|
|Green Leafy Veggies||Nuts like Almonds and Groundnuts||Mushrooms|
|Milk and Milk Products||Meat||Milk and Milk Products|
|Mustard, Sunflower, Gingelly and Cumin Seeds||Poultry and Eggs||Fortified foods|
|Ragi, Bengalgram, Horsegram, Rajmah and Soyabean||Milk Products||Green Leafy Vegetables|
|Fishes like Bacha, Katla, Mrigal and Rohu||Soyabean||Soya Bean|
- Be more active and exercise to prevent age-related problems in your muscles, bones and joints. Don’t worry, these problems are reversable! Physical activity and exercise can prevent many age-related changes to muscles, bones and joints – and reverse these changes as well.
It’s never too late to start living an active lifestyle and enjoying the benefits. Research shows that exercise can make bones stronger and help slow the rate of bone loss; delays the progression of Osteoporosis. Research shows that weight-bearing and muscle-strengthening exercises help not only to strengthen the muscles and maintain weight, but also build bone mass, strengthen the joints and connective tissues and reduce bone deterioration there by delaying the progression of Osteoporosis.
So ladies, do not shy away from strength training. Lifting weights will not make you muscular like men as women do not produce as much testosterone, a hormone that drives muscle growth. Instead strength training will help tone your body, make your bones and muscles strong and make you look and feel younger.
Walk, jog, run, cycle or do yoga everyday under the sun. Expose yourself to 35-45minutes under the sun to get sufficient Vitamin D.
Let our new year resolution not just be losing weight, let us also work towards building strong muscles and bones as we women are the pillars of our families and the society!
|Largest Muscle: The gluteus maximus. It is in the buttocks and helps humans maintain an upright posture.||Longest Bone: The femur / thigh bone is the longest bone. The head of your femur fits into your hip socket and the bottom end connects to your knee.|
|Smallest Muscle: Ear muscles. They hold the inner ear together and are connected to the eardrum||Shortest Bone: the stapes found in the middle ear. It is the third bone of the three ossicles in the middle ear.|
|The heart is the hardest-working muscle in the body. It pumps 5 quarts of blood per minute and 2,000 gallons daily.|