Bone Growth – The Teen Years

If you think back to when you were young, you may remember being told to drink milk and take necessary vitamins because it was good for healthy, strong bones. It is no secret that our early years are an important time for bones to develop and gain healthy minerals as they transition to the adult years. However, as it turns out, our later teen years may be equally, if not more important, for overall bone health.

Dr. Shana E. McCormack, a pediatric researcher at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) is a huge proponent of children’s growth and the foundation for lifelong health. “We often think of a child’s growth largely with respect to height, but overall bone development is also important,” she says. “Our studies are showing us that roughly 10 percent of bone mass continues to accumulate after a teenager reaches his or her full adult height.”

The research team also discovered that bone growth is site-specific, meaning that bone mineral density and overall health develops at different rates in different parts of our body. This could primarily be the reason for why height growth outpaces bone mineral growth, which leads to a high number of bone fractures in children and adolescents. The numbers tell us that anywhere from 30 to 50 percent of children experience one fracture before turning adults. This number significantly decreases in adulthood, before picking back up when bone density begins to decrease as we get older.

Improving Bone Strength And Development

What these studies show us is that we need to reinforce the overall importance of a healthy diet, which includes items that play a magnificent role in bone development in young teens such as vitamin D, protein, and calcium. But, a healthy diet only scratches the surface. Physical activity of at least one hour per day during the late teen years also acts as a good foundation for lifelong health. Other behaviors to avoid that are common in adolescent teens are smoking and alcohol use, which largely prohibit healthy bone mineral development.

“The young teen years are a time for parents and caregivers to encourage healthy behaviors,” says McCormack. “This means better diets and more physical activity.” She cites a CHOP study that showed that high-impact exercising improves bone strength and deters fragility. This means that maximizing our overall bone health when we are teenagers can protect us from developing osteoporosis as we get older.

Our bones are living tissue too and need to be taken care of to prevent early break down. The most important and ideal time to build strength in our bones is during childhood and late adolescence. Nutrients essential for bone growth can be found easily in our foods, but also just from daily sunshine and physical activity outdoors. Because our bones rapidly grow during these vital years, adequate consumption is a major factor to consider before it’s too late.

Understanding the relationship between your age and bone growth may not be something we normally think about. However, parents and caregivers may need to support and take a second look when determining a child’s development stage. Lifestyle makes a difference. For teens, a healthy diet, adequate physical activity, plenty of sunshine, and no drugs can make a significant difference in how your body will feel after you turn 30.

Exercise And Bone Health

There are several correlations between the health in different parts of your body. Some symptoms that you endure are felt and related to other parts you may not even think of. Many wouldn’t guess that there is a connection between bone health and weight loss and exercise. Weight loss is typically linked to things like heart health and cholesterol, but believe it or not, the bones are greatly impacted by the amount of weight you carry on your body at any given time.

The UNC School of Medicine in North Carolina conducted research regarding just how these two things are correlated. One of the ways that this shows itself is that when fat is burned, it allows for subtle bone building to take place. So when you are active, you are readily helping your body mass to become stronger and more tightly compacted. Another way that obesity and weight affect bones is that many of the conditions that the overweight are prone to – like diabetes, arthritis or inflammation – deeply affect the bones and bone health.

Dr. May Styner explains, “One of the main clinical implications of this research is that exercise is not just good, but amazing for bone health. In just a very short period of time, we saw that running was building bone significantly in mice. I see a lot of patients with poor bone health, and I always talk to them about what a dramatic effect exercise can have on bones, regardless of what the cause of their bone condition is.”

Preventing Osteoporosis

This research shows that being active and keeping yourself at a healthy weight has tremendous benefits outside of what some may typically think. Bone health and density are key to preventing painful breaks or other symptoms of osteoporosis that result from weak bones. There is a specific type of fat that is present in the marrow that is associated with low-density levels in the bones. The same way excess fat can be a hindrance to the body can be found within the fat cells that live in the marrow as well.

During the research study, two separate groups of mice were evaluated. The group that had greater access to the running wheel for a six-week period of time lost more fat cells in their marrow. This was found to not only help their body composition but also the density in their bones. Consistent exercise improved the thickness of the bones which increased necessary bone health.

One of the mysteries that still needs to be better understood is the correlation between building better bones and the burning of marrow fat.  There is a possibility that there is some type of delayed strengthening of bone that takes place when marrow fat is being burned but that has yet to be completely proven.

In order to surmise the correct findings, micro CT imaging is used to measure both the marrow fat and the bone density. There is even a sophisticated MRI machine that is employed for various types of observations of the bone and how it can change over the course of the experiment. One thing is for sure, bone health is not something that exists completely separate from many of the other common health concerns.

Screenings For Newborn Spinal Abnormalities

With so many advancements in neonatal testing, couples can learn so much about their babies prior to their births – and directly after. In the United Kingdom, while additional testing is becoming more readily available, many believe that testing to see the functionality and strength of the baby’s spine is a necessary screening. There is a potentially deadly condition called spinal muscular atrophy that can compromise the quality of babies’ lives severely.

Many parents want to be given the choice on whether or not to be aware of such birth defects during the course of the pregnancy. Researchers from University of Warwick found that most individuals are in favor of this type of newborn screening to verify whether the presence of SMA, or spinal muscular atrophy, is present.

Understanding SMA
This neuromuscular disorder – inherited from the genes of the mother or father – causes a huge amount of health severities that lead to many infant deaths worldwide. While this type of screening is readily available in many developed countries around the world, a routine screening for SMA is not something that is done in the UK.

Felicity Boardman who works at the university’s medical school says it quite simply: “With the recent release of the first therapy for SMA, calls are being made internationally for a reconsideration of the current stance on screening; however, very little is known about the views of the general public. We decided to address this gap in evidence by surveying people about their views.”

This is a great way of seeing just where the citizens of the UK are when it comes to certain advancements that would give parents and patients the ability to really see what’s coming when it comes to their babies. Having the necessary and pertinent information is much better than not being informed about options. The fact that something could be a very real and dangerous threat to the safety and health of an unborn baby should be known as soon as possible.

Over 80 percent of the 232 members of the public surveyed were in favor of the newborn screenings. Many believed that it would lead to improved healthcare and life expectancy for the infants that were affected. It would also be a good way for the expectant partners to decide about any future pregnancies. Those who were not in favor thought that knowing this information may have a negative impact on the familial unit. It could affect stress patterns and interfere with parent/child bonding.

Acceptability Is Key

Dr. Broadman went on to say: “Public acceptability is a key component in the evaluation of any potential screening program in the UK. This study demonstrates that newborn screening for SMA is viewed largely positively by people unfamiliar with the condition. The perceived importance of early identification overrode all other social and ethical concerns about screening for the majority of participants.”

Many of the participants could see how advantageous it would be to have the information about a baby’s condition in utero or right after the baby has been born. This benefits both the baby and the parents as proper treatment can be administered at once. Screening methods generally have positive results and reactions because they put the patients and babies in a position of knowledge which allows them to make informed decisions.

Why The Way Your Spine Ages Matters

It appears that medicine is facing a huge challenge. Neurosurgeons all over the globe have to deal with the aging spine and all of the many repercussions that it entails. The numbers are astounding. In four short years we’ll start to see why the presence of bone health was talked about so ceaselessly. Seventy-five million Americans will be over the age of 65 in the year of 2020; 14 million will have osteoporosis. More than double that number will have some type of issue with their bone mass.

The costs of osteoporosis are astronomical, with it coming in at $20 billion annually. Just in the decade span of 1998 to 2008, the age that spinal surgery is performed went from 54 to 49. This influx rises all the time. While life expectancy makes it seem that living a vibrant and active life into your older age is likely, the state of the spine may compromise that ability.

Mobility And Flexibility

Spines are incredibly vulnerable. Some age badly while things like injury impede others. Spines serve one of the most integral aspects of our mobility. It serves as how our nerves interact and relate to the rest of our body, and how we experience things like pain and overall function. Flexibility is also intrinsically required for even the simple day-to-day tasks we often take for granted. This isn’t referring to the type of flexibility that is needed to do the splits. Things like getting dressed, showering and going to the bathroom require a specific amount of flexibility that can be compromised by an aging spine.

Osteoporosis is classified as a condition of fragility of the skeletal form which compromises the strength in one’s bones. Its presence also increases the risk of fracture. Everyone is potentially at risk for this condition. There is a misconception that it only affects those who are older. It can happen at any age. Women also tend to have a higher rate of risk for the condition than men.

Bone Density

A bone density test should be routinely completed to rule out any presence of the condition. Just as other screenings are recommended annually for specific health issues, this one is for the health of your bones and should not be brushed aside. There are ways that the condition can be preventable. While it isn’t entirely in the hands of preventative measures, they can help to thwart off the issue.

Osteoporosis and neurosurgery are connected in that the pain people can sometimes experience, even when they are relatively healthy, can be the result of osteoporosis. An elderly man with an immense quality of life, who walked daily and played tennis three times a week, started experiencing debilitating pain. His pain was to the point that he couldn’t walk around the block or even play tennis for 10 minutes without having to stop. It was found that he was suffering from osteoporosis, a more specific type that causes a curvature of the spine called scoliosis and the narrowing of the spinal canal referred to as stenosis.

Calcium, Magnesium And Vitamin D

The presence of calcium and magnesium will help in the strengthening of the bones. Getting adequate levels of vitamin D is also incredibly crucial to your overall bone health, which is coincidentally one of the most common vitamin deficiencies reported.