Older women who sleep for 5 hours a night or less are more likely to have lower bone mineral density (BMD) and osteoporosis, a new study has found. Conducted by a team from the University at Buffalo, NY, the study involved 11,084 postmenopausal women, all of who were participants in the Women's Health Initiative. It found that poor sleep may negatively affect bone health. Specifically, the team found that compared with women who got more sleep, those who reported getting only up to 5 hours of sleep per night had significantly lower values in four measures of BMD: the whole body, the hip, the neck, and the spine. The lower BMD measures of the group getting less sleep were the equivalent of them being one year older than their peers in the more sleep group. Now one explanation for why these results were seen is due to how our bodies remove old bone tissue and replace it with new bone tissue, a process known as bone remodeling. “If you are sleeping less, one possible explanation is that bone remodeling isn't happening properly,” said lead study author Heather M. Ochs-Balcom, Ph.D., an associate professor of epidemiology and environmental health at the University at Buffalo School of Public Health and Health Professions. The full findings of the study are published in a paper in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research.
Osteoporosis is a disease that causes bone quality and density to decline over time. As a result, people with osteoporosis are at greater risk of fracturing bones. And it’s often not until a fracture occurs that an individual realises they have osteoporosis. That’s because the disease affects bones silently and progressively, with few symptoms. Following a fracture, osteoporosis patients are often prescribed medication to help support their bone health. Common osteoporosis drugs include etidronate and nitrogen bisphosphonates (usually alendronate and risedronate). Now, new research has revealed just how effective these drugs are. According to two different studies conducted by the Garvan Institute of Medical Research in Darlinghurst, Australia, osteoporosis drugs not only reduce the risk of further fractures, but also decrease a person’s risk of premature death. In the first study, the research team analysed data relating to over 6,000 osteoporosis patients aged 50 and over. They found that people taking alendronate had a 34% lower risk of premature death. For the second study, the researchers looked specifically at how nitrogen bisphosphonates impact bone loss and mortality risk in women aged 50 and over. They found that patients who took nitrogen bisphosphonates had both a lower rate of bone loss and a lower mortality risk. However, the studies also revealed that many osteoporosis patients do not follow their drug prescriptions and neglect to take the necessary drugs. Speaking about the findings of the two trials, lead author Dana Bliuc, Ph.D. said: “For many individuals with osteoporosis, bone health isn't front-of-mind. We hope our study results will encourage people with osteoporosis or at risk of a fracture to seek treatment — and commit to taking it.” So the advice is clear: if you have been prescribed osteoporosis drugs, make sure you take them as directed.
While many people think that getting fit involves hours spent in the gym each week, a new study suggests just one minute of jogging each day is enough to boost women’s bone health. Researchers found women who performed “high-intensity, weight-bearing activity” 60 to 120 seconds a day had 4% better bone health than those who didn’t. Furthermore, those that did slightly more exercise benefitted exponentially. For example, women who did more than two minutes had 6% better bone health. The researchers said that a slow jog for post-menopausal women and a medium-paced run for pre-menopausal women was enough to provide health boosts. Publishing their findings in the International Journal of Epidemiology, the researchers from the University of Exeter and the University of Leicester, both in the United Kingdom, said there was a clear link between exercise and bone health. For their study, the researchers used data obtained from wrist monitors worn by more than 2,500 women for a week. Osteoporosis is a disease that causes bone to become weak and brittle. While bone tissue is constantly broken down and replaced in healthy people, new bone production does not keep pace with the removal of old bone in individuals with osteoporosis. The National Osteoporosis Foundation estimates that there are around 54 million people living with osteoporosis and low bone mass in the United States alone.
There are all sorts of diets out there, but a certain type in particular could be a "ticking time bomb" for young people's bone health, according to a leading charity in the UK. Dairy-free diets, which see the amount of dairy consumed significantly reduced or cut out completely, says the National Osteoporosis Society, are putting people's health at risk. That's because milk and other dairy products are important sources of calcium, which boosts bone strength. A survey by the charity found that a fifth of under-25s are cutting out or reducing dairy in their diet. Furthermore, its findings suggest many young people are seeking and following dietary advice they find online. While some of this advice can be good, the charity warns that some individuals are restricting what they eat too much. Prof Susan Lanham-New, head of nutritional sciences at the University of Surrey and clinical advisor to the National Osteoporosis Society, said: "Diet in early adulthood is so important because by the time we get into our late 20s it is too late to reverse the damage caused by poor diet and nutrient deficiencies and the opportunity to build strong bones has passed." In the UK, the Department of Health recommends 700mg of calcium a day for adults and pregnant women, but that increases to 1,000mg a day for boys and girls between 11 and 18. Calcium is the most abundant mineral found in the human body and helps to regulate metabolism, promote healthy bones and teeth, controls muscle contraction and blood clotting, and transmits information via the nervous system.
Researchers have found that laughter may really be the best medicine when it comes to a person's health in later life. And, according to the study led by Georgia State University, when laughter is combined with moderate exercise, not only is the mental health of older individuals improved, but also their motivation to undertake physical activity. Prior to their research, lead author Celeste Greene, from Georgia State, and colleagues noted that many seniors are reluctant to carry out physical activity because they lack motivation due mainly to the fact they don't find exercise enjoyable. That's why Greene's team set out to investigate whether combining laughter with physical activity would increase the amount of enjoyment older people get while exercising, thus increasing the likelihood of them doing more and reaping the associated health benefits. For older people, regular physical activity can improve heart health; reduce the risk of diabetes; aid weight control; improve bone health; and maintain and boost muscle strength. Greene and her team created LaughActive, a unique laughter-based exercise programme, which combines moderate-intensity physical activity with simulated laughter techniques. The research team enrolled 27 older adults in the LaughActive programme, who were all required to attend two 45-minute sessions every week for a period of 6 weeks. What they found at the end of the 6-week programme was that 96.2% of participants said that laughter was an enjoyable addition to physical activity and boosted their motivation to take part. In addition, the programme was associated with significant improvements in the mental health and aerobic endurance of the participants.