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Bone Health

Written by Colleen Bridges, M. Ed., NSCA-CPT, Parkinson’s disease fitness specialist, in collaboration with Renee Rouleau-PhD student, Jacobs School of Biomedical Sciences, University at Buffalo; And Betsy Lerner, MA English and African American Lit,, Parkinson’s Disease Specialist and Rock Steady Boxing Certified

What does 206 represent in the human body? It’s the number of BONES in the adult body. Your bones play an integral role in your overall well-being. For example, your bones:

  • Provide structure, allowing you to move and breathe

  • Protect your organs

  • Connect muscles and store calcium

  • Cancellous bone is an important reservoir for developing red and white blood cells and platelets

  • The body destroys and removes defective red blood cells in the bone marrow

  • Bone is a precursor to multiple hormones involved in insulin production, growth and brain development

  • Can absorb heavy metals from blood such as lead, arsenic and mercury

Bridges For Parkinson’s is committed to helping you recognize the importance of good bone health.

Over the next few weeks we will discuss the following Bone Health Topics.

  • What is bone?

  • Why is it important to have healthy bones?

  • Is there a neuro-connection to bone health?

  • What are bone related issues?

  • How is bone health and Parkinson’s Disease connected?

  • What are medical options for increasing bone density?

  • How does nutrition and exercise improve bone health?

Let’s begin with “what is bone?”

Our bones are both amazing and complex! Did you know…

According to 19th century anatomist and surgeon, Julius Wolff, bones are a living organism. Made primarily of two materials: collagen, a protein that provides a soft framework, and calcium, a mineral that adds strength and hardness.

The combination of these two materials makes bones strong and flexible enough to hold up under stress. Also, our skeleton makes up about 15% of our weight and has an internal structure similar to a honeycomb. And as it pertains to bone structure, we have two different types of bone structures.

  1. Compact (cortical) bone is a hard outer layer that is dense, strong, and durable. It makes up around 80% of adult bone mass and forms the outer layer of bone. Example: arm and leg bones

  2. Cancellous (trabecular or spongy) bone makes up the remaining 20% of bone and consists of a network of trabeculae, or rod-like, structures. It is lighter, less dense, and more flexible than a compact bone. Example: ribs, skull, pelvis and vertebrae

Bone structure leads us to explore the various types of bone.

  1. Long - supports weight and movement

  2. Short - wrist and ankle

  3. Flat- protective role for body. Include ribs, shoulder blades, breast bone and skull

  4. Sesamoid- protect tendons from wear and tear

  5. Irregular- spine and pelvis

As we age, our bones grow and adapt to the stresses we apply in our everyday tasks and play. This process is called “remodeling”. What is “remodeling?”?

Simply put, the aged, brittle bone is removed or resorbed and replaced by new bone tissue. This can occur when a person is recovering from a fracture and is referred to as “reshaping” or when your body is repairing itself from micro-fractures due to stress experienced during strength training.

Additionally, there is a biological process that partners osteoclasts which are cells that resorb aged bone and/or worn out pieces of bone, with osteoblasts which are cells responsible for building new bone to replace them.”

Surprisingly, an average of 20% of bone tissue is replaced annually by this remodeling process. Remodeling continues throughout life, so most of the adult skeleton is replaced about every 10 years.

Now the remodeling process isn’t as simple as just making new bones. There is a 5 step process that takes anywhere from 4-8 months.

The Osteoporosis Solutions Research Program describes the process as the following…

ACTIVATION- Osteoclasts are attracted to the surface of the bone

RESORPTION- Osteoclasts attach to bone and create cavities in focal areas of the bone

REVERSAL- This phase is still poorly understood but scientists recognize that a combination of bone resorption and bone formation occurs at the remodeling sites.

FORMATION-Osteoclasts are removed and osteoblasts (bone forming cells) are attracted to the newly formed cavities. New layers of a protein matrix (collagen) are laid down within these cavities. Finally, the mineralization process occurs whereby calcium and phosphate are embedded within this matrix until the cavity is filled.

QUIESCENCE-The final osteoblasts turn into lining cells which participate in the minute-to-minute release of calcium from the bones. Some of the osteoblasts also turn into osteocytes which remain in the bone, connected by long cell processes which can sense mechanical stresses to the bones.

Interestingly, these phases can occur simultaneously yet asynchronously in various sites of the skeleton. And guess what?? You, yes, you, can help the remodeling process by performing weight bearing exercises!

You may be wondering how bone density fits into this scenario. While we discuss bone density in greater detail later in this series it is helpful to know that bone density is the amount of bone mineral in the bone tissue, which peaks between the ages of 25 and 30. Unfortunately, most of us do not appreciate bone density and what it means for our aging process until we are older. If only we could go back and tell our younger self to take care of our bones!

In closing, your skeleton is the framework that essentially holds your body together. We’ve learned that bone has two different structures (compact and cancellous), five types of bone (long, short, flat, sesamoid, irregular) and our bones support our body inside and out! Also, bone regenerates through the remodeling process and bone density is important in the way our bones are formed. This means we have multiple reasons for ensuring our bones are healthy!

NEXT: Why is bone health is important?

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