Posts Tagged ‘prunes’

Bone Health: Is a Fracture in Your Future?

Osteoporosis is a condition of weak bones, which makes them more likely to break. Ten million Americans have osteoporosis and 44 million have thinning bones, according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF), a health organization dedicated to preventing osteoporosis and broken bones though awareness, education and research.

In the United States, one out of every two women and one in four men over age 50 will have an osteoporosis-related fracture in their lifetime. Twenty-four percent of seniors who suffer a hip fracture will die within one year of the event. If you are female your risk of having a bone break from osteoporosis is equal to your risks of breast, uterine and ovarian cancer COMBINED.

My mother died of complications from osteoporosis. She broke her left wrist when she was 74 years old, tripping in downtown Seattle when trying to catch a bus. Four years later she fell onto her right when getting out of bed in the middle of the night. Her right knee swelled up and she insisted it was “just my knee”, refusing to go to the doctor. Nearly 2 weeks later when the pain hadn’t gone away she finally agreed to get it checked but by that time the ends of her broken bones had slipped down and were already knitting back together. She suffered from the discomfort and inconvenience of her right leg one inch shorter than her left one for the rest of her life.

Although its complications show up in old age, osteoporosis starts in childhood. Nearly 90 percent of our peak bone mass is built before we turn 20 years old. At middle age that begins to reverse and we lose 1% of our bone mass per year, doubling to 2% per year for women after menopause. The thinner your bones are to start with, the more likely you’ll eventually experience a fracture.

Here are 5 tips to help keep your bones healthy and strong:

  1. Get the calcium and vitamin D you need every day. Eating a variety of foods rich in calcium is a critical step to building and maintaining strong bones. Green leafy vegetables like broccoli, Brussels sprouts and kale are good sources of calcium, as are dairy products like milk and yoghurt. Calcium and Vitamin D supplements are also helpful.
  1. Do regular weight bearing and muscle-strengthening exercises. Getting up and moving is one of the best things you can do for your bones. Weight-bearing activities like walking, cycling or dancing help signal your body to keep your bones strong.
  1. Don’t smoke.My mother smoked since she was 18 years old. Quitting smoking could have helped her avoid the fractures that plagued her final years.
  1. Talk to your doctor about your chances of osteoporosis and ask about bone density testing.If you have passed menopause or have taken certain drugs, especially prednisone or corticosteroids, you may have thin bones without knowing it. Testing your bone density helps determine how likely you are to have a bone break in the future and if you are at risk, your bone loss can be slowed with medicine and other strategies. My mother never realized she had thin bones until she broke her wrist. With screening and the bone-building drugs available today she may have avoided the hip fracture that shortened her life.
  1. Try eating prunes every day. A recent study showed that eating prunes every day could make your bones stronger. The study participants ate 100 grams (about 10 prunes) every day for a year. Luckily,   you don’t have to eat quite that many to benefit your bones. I suggest taking it slowly and building up to what you can manage, as prunes are a natural stool softener. I weighed out 100 gm of dried plums (prunes) and found that 100 grams is 9 of the Mariani® brand of dried plums sold by Costco. With my family history, I decided to eat at least 5 prunes a day, and see if I could work up from there.

Is there a fracture in your future? Keeping your bones strong and healthy includes getting enough calcium and Vitamin D, doing some weight bearing exercise every day, quitting smoking and asking your doctor or medical provider about bone density testing. If you do have osteoporosis, there are bone building drugs available, from tablets you take every week or every month like alendronate (Fosamax®), Actonel® or Boniva®, to injections given daily, every 6 months or even once a year. And even prunes!

To find out more about osteoporosis and how you can prevent it, check out the National Osteoporosis Foundation website at www.nof.org.

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Which Medicines to Pack?

Q: What medicines should I travel with? We have several vacations planned this summer and I want to make sure I pack the right stuff.

Vacations are wonderful opportunities to get away from your usual routine and see new horizons. Just because you are on vacation doesn’t mean you can’t get injured or sick. Motion sickness, aches and pains and intestinal disturbances can derail your vacation if you aren’t prepared.

First, before you walk out the door make sure you’ve packed all of your regular prescription medicines plus a current list of all your medications and your doctor’s name. Using pillboxes for taking your medicines on the road keeps your main bottles at home (less hassle in case you accidently leave your pills behind) and takes up less space. Filling up your pillboxes before you leave also alerts you to whether you’ll need any refills before you return.

If you’re going to need a refill before you get back into town you can either ask for a larger quantity from your doctor or ask if your pharmacist could refill your medicine a little early. Some insurance programs have a grace period of one “vacation refill” per year. If you take prescription pain or anxiety medicines, talk with your doctor or pharmacist beforehand about what to do about refills during the time you will be gone. Some medicine requires a new printed prescription each time you get it filled, which can be very difficult to get if you need another fill while out of town.

When traveling outside the United States, you can avoid spending your vacation visiting the local bathrooms instead of the beaches or museums by being extra cautious about your food and drinks. My daughter made it through 9 months as an exchange student in Bangkok, Thailand with no sickness until buying a snack from a street vendor. She got so sick her host family had to take her to a hospital. Avoid unpeeled fruits, uncooked veggies like salads, and prepared meals that may have been stored at improper temperatures or not completely cooked. With beverages, “boil it, cook it, open it, or forget it”. And watch out for ice cubes or shaved ice: don’t drink a freshly opened bottle of water or soda that has been poured over ice!

If you do end up with nausea, vomiting or diarrhea, DON’T take NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) such as naproxen (Aleve®) or ibuprofen (Advil®, Motrin-IB®) for pain, swelling or fever. Taking an NSAID like naproxen or ibuprofen while dehydrated can damage your kidneys. Take acetaminophen (Tylenol®) instead.

Along with your prescription medicines be sure to pack some non-prescription medications for common conditions.

Here’s what I bring with me when I travel:

1. Acetaminophen (Tylenol®). Good for tension headache from staring at maps, backache from riding all day in a car, or fever.
2. Meclizine (Bonine®, Dramamine® Non-Drowsy Formula). The chewable 25mg tablets are my go-to motion sickness medicine for trains, planes, boats and cars. Also helpful for amusement park roller coasters that go backwards and upside down.
3. Loperamide (Imodium®-AD). This is the very best way to stop diarrhea in its tracks. I NEVER leave home without it.
4. Pseudoephedrine (Sudafed®). Since my ears can really plug up when traveling by plane, I make sure I have the original (most effective) formulation with me since in some states it’s now only available by prescription.
5. Diphenhydramine (Benadryl®). This is a miracle worker for bee stings, bug bites, minor rashes and allergic reactions. If you have any swelling around your face or tongue, though, seek medical help immediately.
6. Naproxen, 220mg tablets. This NSAID is great for emergencies like tooth pain or muscle aches. Avoid if you take a blood thinner (like aspirin, warfarin or clopidogrel), have serious heart failure, are allergic to aspirin, or have had a bleeding ulcer. Use acetaminophen (Tylenol®) for aches and pains if you can’t safely take an NSAID like naproxen or ibuprofen.
7. Dried Prunes. Prunes, you ask? I pack these as insurance against constipation. It’s been shown that eating 5 prunes is just as effective as taking a stool softener, and I can adjust the “dose” up or down according to my needs. You can pack your favorite laxative instead. I recommend Miralax® because it’s powerful yet gentle on the body.
Bon voyage and safe travels!

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