My 75-year-old grandmother is pretty fantastic. I always say she has a young mind because not only does she show no signs of age deteriorating her outlook, her energy or sharpness, she is also very open-minded and always ready to learn something new. She teaches Feldenkrais so she has good body awareness.
I've been living with her since March and watching her daily habits with interest. She eats fruits and vegetables, some meat but more fish, rarely any sugar except some dark chocolate. She took readily to the idea that animal fat is not necessarily the culprit for high cholesterol, started eating more eggs and hard cheese and cut out grains almost entirely, and lost 2 kg.
Since her menopause she's dealing with two heath problems. The first is melanomas - every few months she has to go have some removed and she is not allowed to get ANY sun on bare skin. The second is osteoporosis for which she takes a once-a-week prescription pill. Also the instructors at the gym we both go to gave her a silly program on the machines to help with that.
Question 1: could the osteoperosis be related to the fact that she gets little or no Vitamin D from sunlight? I'm thinking supplementing with Vitamin D or maybe CLO could give some her benefit, but I'm no expert.
Question 2: what kind of exercise/training program would you people suggest to help improve bone density? As I said she is pretty open minded but she does not like to "strain" very hard and prefers to take very gradual steps (Feldenkrais philosophy). Probably a good idea also because her bones are weak. Here is what I got her to do:
- Overhead squats (with a broomstick for now) - she loves those! Actually picks up a stick and does a few reps several times every day.
- Circuit, 2-3 times:
Pull-ups (gravitron assisted), 8-10 reps
Push ups (off her knees, not full range yet) 8-10 reps
Lunges (bodyweight), 8-10 reps
She does this 1-3 times per week.
Q #1: Yes, the lack of vitamin D, along with no loaded exercise would likely be major culprits behind the problem. CLO would be my preferred solution, at least 2000IUs a day, although her situation might call for more. Taking the CLO with some amount of saturated fat would also be helpful.
Q #2: Weight vest. Start with 1 pound, slowly work up. This can be done for periods during the day and/or during the exercises you gave her and/or her Feldenkrais (the added weight actually can improve one's feel in their exercises as long as it doesn't interfere with any movements). Doing weight vest walking combined with carrying some DBs (even adding some upper body movements) can help the mid- to lower spine regions, the hips/pelvis and the upper arm bones. See the recent neck strengthening thread for some ideas to train her neck (and thus the cervical vertebrae).
Thanks Dr. G, great advice as always! I'll run these suggestions by her. She goes for a walk every day.
Maybe this is far out there but talking about strengthening the neck gives me an idea: my grandma often brings up women carrying water jugs on their heads as an example of excellent posture/gait/alignment. I'm thinking she could carry something on her head for part of her walk, maybe just a thick book for starters. She never cares about looking goofy :)
Sounds like a great idea to me.
Obviously load bearing exercise is required for bone health and Garrets suggestion that you get her a weight vest is a good one but a more practical proposal for someone who enjoys going for a daily walk would be to get them into the habit of carrying a small backpack everywhere. This would be a lot cheaper than a weight vest and once she gets into the habit of carrying it she'll soon find herself lugging home fairly heavy loads of groceries, books or whatever without thinking of it as exercise.
As for walking with hand weights I know a lot of people do it but they can be more trouble than they're worth because they're rarely heavy enough to load the spine but they do tend to screw up your gait which increases your risk of developing problems with your knees, hips and lumbar spine.
When it comes to diets for osteoporosis the book to read is Understanding, Preventing and Overcoming Osteoporosis by Professor Jane Plant. It explains exactly how and why osteoporosis develops and how what you eat affects your bones plus there's a handy chart of the PRAL value of a wide variety of foods which should help with changing your diet to one that promotes bone health.
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