Friday, June 29, 2007

Weak By Choice

I went to a funeral a few years ago. The ground was damp, and as we walked across the cemetery to the grave site, one of the elderly women slipped and fell. I found out later that the fall was the beginning of the end for her. Apparently she broke her hip and never recovered. I was reminded of this when I came across this New Yorker article about aging. I found it via this post at Dynamic Fitness, and after reading the entire article, I keep coming back to the piece he quoted:
Each year, about three hundred and fifty thousand Americans fall and break a hip. Of those, forty per cent end up in a nursing home, and twenty per cent are never able to walk again. The three primary risk factors for falling are poor balance, taking more than four prescription medications, and muscle weakness. (emphasis mine)
Muscle weakness. For the vast majority of people, preventable or treatable. According to this article about strength training for the elderly: "Osteoporosis substantially affects roughly 20% of the population, whereas muscle weakness affects virtually all seniors." How much media coverage does osteoporosis get vs. muscle weakness? Maybe because you can't swallow a drug to treat the latter. You have to actually get off your butt.

As a Canadian, I often look at health care in terms of "what are my tax dollars paying for"? How much money could my provincial system save by reducing the number of falling-related injuries?

Unless God decides to send my bashert sometime soon, I will likely age and die alone. Fine by me, as long as I'm mobile and independent, but neither mobility nor independence is compatible with being weak-by-choice. Being weak-by-choice needs to become socially unacceptable, rather than a condition that evokes sympathy.

Two more links: a profile of Dr. Maria Fiatarone-Singh who pioneered research on strength-training for the elderly. Money quotes: "Being a couch potato is lethal" and "It's never too late to start. Lots of people are starting in their 80s and 90s." She's also quoted in this article, dated 1993(!). The information has been out there for some time. What are we doing with it?

3 Comments:

At 1:29 PM , Blogger M@rla said...

Now, I can't back this up with a reference, but I remember reading or hearing some time ago that a significant contributor to osteoporosis is a lifetime of being underweight. I'm not using this to champion being OVERweight, but it's always irked me that you hear so darned often about the health risks of obesity, and nothing about the risks of starvation-thinness.

 
At 6:32 PM , Blogger Alberto Caraballo said...

Mark Verstegen says that loss of power is also another big factor in injuries to the elderly. That's because it declines moreso than strength: more power would allow for a quicker reaction time in a fall that may allow for better bracing and landing better.

 
At 1:44 PM , Anonymous NotSkinny said...

My grandfather broke his hip, and never quite recovered from it. It was a very depressing process to watch.

Thank you so much for commenting on my blog. :) I appreciate it so much :)

 

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