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A “Stress” Fracture of a Different Kind: How Our Emotions Affect Our Bone Health

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Bones & Joints related image Photo: Getty Images

I never really gave much thought over the years as to how my emotional well-being might have affected my physical health, but it seems that in recent years, I have read so many studies on the parallel between emotional well-being and physical well-being. Stress has been related to a host of diseases and illnesses, but I was surprised to see how it can significantly impact our bone health.

When we are under stress, our bodies produce the hormone called cortisol. This hormone has a host of effects on the body, and one of those is moving the calcium through the bone and increasing its secretion through the urine. So when we become stressed, our bones begin to release minerals necessary for bone formation back into the bloodstream to aid other tissues. Since the majority of us suffer from chronic stress, that can lead to bones that are deprived of the necessary minerals they require to be strong and healthy. Sadly, most of these minerals are not often replaced by diet.

One of the leading health concerns today is depression. Studies have shown that women who have suffered from depression or are currently depressed have lower bone density than women who have never experienced this condition. Depression, much like stress, increases the production of cortisol, and depressed women are probably less likely to consume adequate nutrition for bone health. Compounding that equation, they are typically less active than their non-depressed counterparts.

Emotions obviously play a pivotal role in our bone health. While we cannot always avoid stress, we can change the way we respond to it and reduce its impact on our health. One of the best stress relievers for me is exercise. Not only does it immediately improve your mood, but it directly stimulates bone formation.

Meditation is another terrific response to combat stress, as well as engaging in deep-breathing exercises. It would also be great to get at least seven or eight hours of sleep each night, although that is not always possible. (I keep hoping that one of these days that will be a possibility for me! It sure doesn’t look promising right now, however!)

You can also heal the damaging effects of stress on the adrenal glands – the glands that are responsible for producing cortisol – by making simple dietary changes and taking nutritional supplements.

I can relay a specific example, and one to which I often refer, of how my 106-year-old grandmother has always been a pillar of health, and the more I learn about her lifestyle habits over the years, the more I realize she is a living testament to so much of the information we read about health these days.

For example, Grandma has always exercised, ever since she learned to walk, and she still maintains that same discipline today. While she may not go for a daily 20-mile bike ride these days, she still gets out and takes walks on a regular basis. She has always adhered to a good diet, but she does have an unusual affection for extra salt, a dialogue for another article. Her favorite quote is, “I can eat anything, anywhere, anyway, anytime, anyhow, and under any condition.”

What I believe is chief among her abilities to counteract the adverse effects of stress is her attitude. I have witnessed her over the years and have come to realize that she has always been one to just let stuff roll off her back. Sure, something may momentarily affect her, but within minutes, she is back in line with herself and living in the moment. My husband refers to these brief encounters Grandma has with stress as “micro bursts.” She may get all excited or agitated about something, perhaps even shedding a tear or two in frustration, but then, as quickly as it came, it is gone! Poof! Completely forgotten!

I truly believe that Grandma’s diet, lifestyle, and attitude have all contributed to her good health at her age. Even her doctor can’t find anything wrong with her. She still has all of her original teeth, too! She has even sustained a few major falls in recent years, but bounced right back up, never fracturing a bone. If that doesn’t speak volumes, I don’t know what does.

Some may call her a medical anomaly, but if you get right down to it, she has just been doing all along what medical science keeps telling us to do anyway. She just beat us to the punch. Remember, she’s 106 years old, so you still have time. Even if you think you are in the afternoon of your life, no one says the sun has to go down anytime soon.

(Information for this article was found at http://www.womentowomen.com/understandyourbody/riskfactors/emotions.aspx)

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.