Have you ever broken a bone?
At age 10 Tony was hit by a car in the baseball field parking lot, breaking his leg. It healed quickly and in no time he was back behind home plate.
Victor, age 42, tripped over his cat (you know how cats are) and crushed his left kneecap. He was in a cast, barely mobile, for some time. When the cast was removed and he went into rehab, his left leg was noticeably smaller than his right.
Pat, age 60, was laid low by an autoimmune disease and in a coma for about 45 days. When she finally woke up, Pat could not sit up on her own, get out of bed, or walk. It was about two weeks into rehab before she could climb even one step.
Elizabeth, age 80, a sedentary grandmother with osteoporosis and in poor health, fell in her bathroom and broke her hip. Within about a year she had to go into the nursing home where she remained for the rest of her life. According to A Place for Mom, “Up to 25% of community-dwelling seniors who sustain hip fractures remain in an institutional assisted care setting such as a nursing home at least a year.” That is if they can afford it.
This is a muscle and bone thing.
The most important thing to know is this. As we age, even under the best of circumstances, our muscular structure deteriorates and we become more “fragile.” In fact, that deterioration actually starts in midlife, say age 40 – 50 years.
The more “fragile” we become, the more unstable, prone to falling, inflexible, unable to lift any significant weight. As this happens we tend to couch surf, camping out on the sofa, our favorite recliner, or on the bed. And the more we stop moving, the more fragile we become. Its a vicious cycle.
Delaying fragility requires two things, exercise (activity to build the muscles) and protein (the stuff from which muscles are made). That’s just how it works.
Meat protein may become less and less consumed the older we get, sometimes because we have trouble chewing meat. Consequently that food that is soft and easiest to prepare provides the least protein value and just causes fat gain. Further, another little side effect of inadequate protein is bone deterioration. The basic structure of bone is also protein.
The older we get (remember this starts as early as 40 or 50 years) our willingness to use our muscles lessens because sometimes it hurts and we get sore. This is very true of muscles that haven’t been used.
What to do
It becomes obvious. Stay active all of your life. Eat way more meat protein than you eat today – perhaps double. Double may sound extreme to you but its not. Handily, the more protein you eat, the fewer calories you will eat and the less hungry you will become. This might be helpful if you also want to lose weight.
If chewing is a problem for you, then eat lots of eggs. Excellent source of animal protein, easy to chew, and not expensive.
Rebuilding weakened muscles requires that you use them. Start small, increase daily. This earlier post, Does exercise Matter, provides suggestions on how to get going.
If you are fragile, now is the time to start fixing it.
Pat Smith is the author of “It’s All About the Food,” a book that guides nutritious food choices as the way to avoid illness and maintain a healthy weight. Pat is a resident of Montgomery County, AR, president of Ouachita Village, Inc. board of directors (Montgomery County Food Pantry), and president of the Mount Ida Area Chamber of Commerce board of directors. Her email address is email@example.com; phone number is 870-490-1836; visit her website at allaboutthefood.org