All posts by Phil Santa Maria

50 Interesting Facts About The Human Body

In the Forever Young Blog series on Your Body: An Owner’s Manual, the explanation of each body system inclulded a list of “5 Interesting Facts” about that system. To save wear and tear on your mouse-clicking finger, here in one place are 50 55 Interesting Facts about the human body . . .

5 Interesting Facts About The Circulatory System

  1. As an adult, you have about 5 quarts of blood.
  2. If connected end-to-end, your blood vessels would be about 60,000 miles long. That’s enough to circle the equator more than twice! (The circumference of the earth is 24,901 miles.)
  3. Over a 70-year lifetime, your heart will beat about 2 ½ to 3 billion times.
  4. About 1 to 2 gallons of blood are pumped through your heart every minute of the day.
  5. One drop of blood contains ½ drop of plasma, 5,000,000 red blood cells, 10,000 white blood cells and 250,000 platelets.

5 Interesting Facts About The Digestive System

  1. Every day the salivary glands produce about 1.9 quarts of saliva.

  2. Your small intestine is about 20 to 25 feet long!

  3. Your large intestine is only about five feet long. Obviously “small” and “large” refer to diameter, not length, where your intestines are concerned.

  4. The noise created by passing gas in influenced by the volume of gas, the force with which it is expelled and the tightness of the anal sphincter.

  5. Your stomach changes shape depending on how much food is in it and whether you are standing or lying down. It can hold up to eight cups (64 fluid ounces), or more.

5 Interesting Facts About The Endocrine System

  1. The endocrine system has no ducts. The hormones it produces are released directly into the bloodstream which carries it to another part of the body.

  2. The endocrine system is responsible for producing about 30 distinct hormones. All these hormones have very distinct jobs to do.

  3. The rush of adrenaline one gets when facing adventure or fear is the result of the adrenal glands production of epinephrine hormone, or adrenaline as we otherwise know it.

  4. We must be grateful to the pineal gland for our sweet sleep. It secretes melatonin which regulates our sleep.

  5. The endocrine system is responsible for the production of insulin. The failure to produce insulin will result in diabetes.

5 Interesting Facts About The Immune System

  1. Getting under 5 hours of sleep a night has been shown to greatly depress immune function in your body. Seven or eight hours of sleep each night is ideal.

  2. Studies show that people who lack humor in their lives tend to have less protective immune responses.

  3. While the body needs some sunlight to produce vitamin D, too much sunshine can suppress the immune system.

  4. As soon as one month after quitting smoking, smokers can strengthen the immune system.

  5. The number one way to boost the immune system is to reduce stress.

5 Interesting Facts About The Lymphatic System

  1. There are over 500 lymph nodes throughout the body, with the majority of them being located in the neck, groin and armpits.

  2. Lymph is a mixture of about 90% water and 10% solutes such as proteins, cellular waste products, dissolved gases, and hormones.

  3. The lymphatic system returns about 3.17 quarts (3 liters) of fluid each day from the tissues to the circulatory system.

  4. One way that lymph moves is via the squeezing action of the skeletal muscles surrounding the lymph vessels.

  5. On average, at any time about I to 2 quarts of lymph fluid circulates in the lymphatics and body tissues.

5 Interesting Facts About The Muscular System

  1. You sit on the largest muscle in your body, the Gluteus Maximus.

  2. The hardest working muscles are in the eye. Scientists estimate they may move more than 100,000 times a day!

  3. It takes 17 muscles to smile and 42 muscles to frown.

  4. There are muscles in the root of your hair that give you goose bumps.

  5. Muscles account for about 40% your body weight.

5 Interesting Facts About The Nervous System

  1. Your adult brain weighs about 3 pounds.

  2. There are millions of nerve cells in your body. In fact, the number exceeds the number of stars in the Milky Way Galaxy.

  3. The right side of your brain controls the left side of your body, while the left side of your brain controls the right side.

  4. As you grow older, your brain shrinks by a gram each year.

  5. At a given point of time, only four percent of the cells in your brain are active, the rest are kept in reserve.

5 Interesting Facts About The Reproductive System

  1. At birth, a woman has between 1 and 2 million potential eggs. By the time she reaches puberty, she has 300,000 to 400,000. However, she only releases about 300 to 400 during her child-bearing years.

  2. About 500 million sperm mature every day in a healthy male.

  3. The average lifespan of an egg once it is released from the ovary is 12-24 hours.

  4. The average life span of a sperm is 2-3 days.

  5. The female human body is capable of giving birth to 35 children in one lifetime.

5 Interesting Facts About The Respiratory System

  1. The right lung is slightly larger than the left.

  2. The breathing rate is faster in children and women than in men.

  3. We breathe about 9 to 20 times every minute.

  4. We inhale and exhale air about 22,000 times per day and in the process, transport about 300 cubic feet of air.

  5. The surface area of the lungs is roughly the same size as a tennis court.

5 Interesting Facts About The Skeletal System

  1. The femur, or thigh bone, is the largest bone in your body. The femur is about 1/4 of a person’s overall height.

  2. The smallest bone is the stirrup, deep in your ear. It’s about the size of a grain of rice.

  3. The bone that is broken most often is the collarbone. The scientific name for the collarbone is the clavicle.

  4. A baby is born with more bones than an adult. Many bones making up the skull and the spine fuse together as the body grows and becomes older.

  5. The hyoid bone, in your throat, is the only bone in your body not attached to another bone.

5 Interesting Facts About The Urinary System

  1. Adults pass about a quart and a half of urine each day.

  2. The volume of urine formed at night is about half that formed in the daytime.

  3. Normal urine is sterile. It contains fluids, salts and waste products, but it is free of bacteria, viruses and fungi.

  4. In ancient Egypt and Ireland, women stood to urinate. It was the men who sat or squatted.

  5. Since urine contains large amounts of urea, it is an excellent source of nitrogen for plants and a good accelerator for compost.

The Urinary System

What Does The Urinary System Do?

The urinary system eliminates waste from the body, in the form of urine.

The kidneys remove waste from the blood. The waste combines with water to form urine. From the kidneys, urine travels down two thin tubes called ureters to the bladder. When the bladder is full, urine is discharged through the urethra.

Urinary System

What Makes Up The Urinary System?

Kidneys

A pair of purplish-brown organs located below the ribs toward the middle of the back. Their function is to remove liquid waste from the blood in the form of urine; keep a stable balance of salts and other substances in the blood; and produce erythropoietin, a hormone that aids the formation of red blood cells.

The kidneys remove urea from the blood through tiny filtering units called nephrons. Each nephron consists of a ball formed of small blood capillaries, called a glomerulus, and a small tube called a renal tubule. Urea, together with water and other waste substances, forms the urine as it passes through the nephrons and down the renal tubules of the kidney.

Ureters

Narrow tubes that carry urine from the kidneys to the bladder. Muscles in the ureter walls continually tighten and relax forcing urine downward, away from the kidneys. If urine backs up, or is allowed to stand still, a kidney infection can develop. About every 10 to 15 seconds, small amounts of urine are emptied into the bladder from the ureters.

Bladder

A triangle-shaped, hollow organ located in the lower abdomen. It is held in place by ligaments that are attached to other organs and the pelvic bones. The bladder’s walls relax and expand to store urine, and contract and flatten to empty urine through the urethra. The typical healthy adult bladder can store up to two cups of urine for two to five hours.

Sphincter muscles

Circular muscles that help keep urine from leaking by closing tightly like a rubber band around the opening of the bladder.

Nerves in the bladder

These alert a person when it is time to urinate, or empty the bladder.

Urethra

The tube that allows urine to pass outside the body. The brain signals the bladder muscles to tighten, which squeezes urine out of the bladder. At the same time, the brain signals the sphincter muscles to relax to let urine exit the bladder through the urethra. When all the signals occur in the correct order, normal urination occurs.

How Does The Urinary System Work?

Your body takes nutrients from food and uses them to maintain all bodily functions including energy and self-repair. After your body has taken what it needs from the food, waste products are left behind in the blood and in the bowel. The urinary system works with the lungs, skin, and intestines – all of which also excrete wastes – to keep the chemicals and water in your body balanced.

5 Interesting Facts About The Urinary System

  1. Adults pass about a quart and a half of urine each day.

  2. The volume of urine formed at night is about half that formed in the daytime.

  3. Normal urine is sterile. It contains fluids, salts and waste products, but it is free of bacteria, viruses and fungi.

  4. In ancient Egypt and Ireland, women stood to urinate. It was the men who sat or squatted.

  5. Since urine contains large amounts of urea, it is an excellent source of nitrogen for plants and a good accelerator for compost.

Adults eliminate about a quart and a half of urine each day. The amount depends on many factors, especially the amounts of fluid and food a person consumes and how much fluid is lost through sweat and breathing. Certain types of medications can also affect the amount of urine eliminated.

The urinary system removes a type of waste called urea from your blood. Urea is produced when foods containing protein, such as meat, poultry, and certain vegetables, are broken down in the body. Urea is carried in the bloodstream to the kidneys.

The kidneys are bean-shaped organs about the size of your fists. They are near the middle of the back, just below the rib cage. The kidneys remove urea from the blood through tiny filtering units called nephrons. Each nephron consists of a ball formed of small blood capillaries, called a glomerulus, and a small tube called a renal tubule. Urea, together with water and other waste substances, forms the urine as it passes through the nephrons and down the renal tubules of the kidney.

From the kidneys, urine travels down two thin tubes called ureters to the bladder. The ureters are about 8 to 10 inches long. Muscles in the ureter walls constantly tighten and relax to force urine downward away from the kidneys. If urine is allowed to stand still, or back up, a kidney infection can develop. Small amounts of urine are emptied into the bladder from the ureters about every 10 to 15 seconds.

The bladder is a hollow muscular organ shaped like a balloon. It sits in your pelvis and is held in place by ligaments attached to other organs and the pelvic bones. The bladder stores urine until you are ready to go to the bathroom to empty it. It swells into a round shape when it is full and gets smaller when empty. If the urinary system is healthy, the bladder can hold up to 16 ounces (2 cups) of urine comfortably for 2 to 5 hours.

Circular muscles called sphincters help keep urine from leaking. The sphincter muscles close tightly like a rubber band around the opening of the bladder into the urethra, the tube that allows urine to pass outside the body.

Nerves in the bladder tell you when it is time to urinate, or empty your bladder. As the bladder first fills with urine, you may notice a feeling that you need to urinate. The sensation to urinate becomes stronger as the bladder continues to fill and reaches its limit. At that point, nerves from the bladder send a message to the brain that the bladder is full, and your urge to empty your bladder intensifies.

When you urinate, the brain signals the bladder muscles to tighten, squeezing urine out of the bladder. At the same time, the brain signals the sphincter muscles to relax. As these muscles relax, urine exits the bladder through the urethra. When all the signals occur in the correct order, normal urination occurs.

What Can Go Wrong With Your Urinary System?

Problems in the urinary system can be caused by aging, illness, or injury. They range in severity from easy to treat to life threatening. These are examples:

Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH)

BPH is a condition in men that affects the prostate gland, which is part of the male reproductive system. The prostate is located at the bottom of the bladder and surrounds the urethra. BPH is an enlargement of the prostate gland that can interfere with urinary function in older men. It causes blockage by squeezing the urethra, which can make it difficult to urinate. Men with BPH frequently have other bladder symptoms including an increase in frequency of bladder emptying both during the day and at night. Most men over age 60 have some BPH, but not all have problems with blockage. There are many different treatment options for BPH.

Painful Bladder Syndrome/Interstitial cystitis (PBS/IC)

PBS is a chronic bladder disorder also known as frequency-urgency-dysuria syndrome. In this disorder, the bladder wall can become inflamed and irritated. The inflammation can lead to scarring and stiffening of the bladder, decreased bladder capacity, pinpoint bleeding, and, in rare cases, ulcers in the bladder lining. The cause of IC is unknown at this time.

Kidney Stones

This is the term commonly used to refer to stones, or calculi, in the urinary system. Stones form in the kidneys and may be found anywhere in the urinary system. They vary in size. Some stones cause great pain while others cause very little. The aim of treatment is to remove the stones, prevent infection, and prevent recurrence. Both nonsurgical and surgical treatments are used. Kidney stones affect men more often than women.

Prostatitis

Prostatitis is inflammation of the prostate gland that results in urinary frequency and urgency, burning or painful urination, a condition called dysuria, and pain in the lower back and genital area, among other symptoms. In some cases, prostatitis is caused by bacterial infection and can be treated with antibiotics. But the more common forms of prostatitis are not associated with any known infecting organism. Antibiotics are often ineffective in treating the nonbacterial forms of prostatitis.

Proteinuria

Proteinuria is the presence of abnormal amounts of protein in the urine. Healthy kidneys take wastes out of the blood but leave in protein. Protein in the urine does not cause a problem by itself. But it may be a sign that your kidneys are not working properly.

Renal (Kidney) Failure

Renal Failure results when the kidneys are not able to regulate water and chemicals in the body or remove waste products from your blood. Acute renal failure (ARF) is the sudden onset of kidney failure. This condition can be caused by an accident that injures the kidneys, loss of a lot of blood, or some drugs or poisons. ARF may lead to permanent loss of kidney function. But if the kidneys are not seriously damaged, they may recover. Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is the gradual reduction of kidney function that may lead to permanent kidney failure, or end-stage renal disease (ESRD). You may go several years without knowing you have CKD.

Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs)

UTIs are caused by bacteria in the urinary tract. Women get UTIs more often than men. UTIs are treated with antibiotics. Drinking lots of fluids also helps by flushing out the bacteria.

The name of the UTI depends on its location in the urinary tract. An infection in the bladder is called cystitis. If the infection is in one or both of the kidneys, the infection is called pyelonephritis. This type of UTI can cause serious damage to the kidneys if it is not adequately treated.

Urinary Incontinence

Urinary Incontinence, or loss of bladder control, is the involuntary passage of urine. There are many causes and types of incontinence, and many treatment options. Treatments range from simple exercises to surgery. Women are affected by urinary incontinence more often than men.

Urinary Retention

Urinary Retention, or bladder-emptying problems, is a common urological problem with many possible causes. Normally, urination can be initiated voluntarily and the bladder empties completely. Urinary retention is the abnormal holding of urine in the bladder. Acute urinary retention is the sudden inability to urinate, causing pain and discomfort. Causes can include an obstruction in the urinary system, stress, or neurologic problems. Chronic urinary retention refers to the persistent presence of urine left in the bladder after incomplete emptying. Common causes of chronic urinary retention are bladder muscle failure, nerve damage, or obstructions in the urinary tract. Treatment for urinary retention depends on the cause.

How Do Your Keep Your Urinary System Healthy?

To keep your urinary system healthy, follow these tips . . .

  1. Drink water when you feel thirsty.

    When you urinate, you are eliminating waste products from your system. To keep your urine flowing normally and avoid blockages, be sure to drink when you are thirsty. The American Dietetic Association recommends eight 8oz. glasses per day.

  2. Go easy on the salt, which makes you retain water.

    Too much salt in your diet keeps the salt/mineral/water balance in your kidneys off kilter. A high-sodium diet has been associated with elevated blood pressure. Long-term, uncontrolled high blood pressure can lead to kidney damage. A high-salt diet may also contribute to the development of kidney stones. Paying attention to sodium labels on processed foods and reducing intake of canned soups and vegetables, luncheon meats, hot dogs, and sausages, may help you lower your risk for developing calcium-based kidney stones.

  3. Consider reducing your caffeine intake.

    Drinking caffeinated beverages may irritate your bladder and serve as a diuretic (increase your need to urinate). The more caffeine you drink, the more you may have to urinate.

This article is part of a series called “Your Body: An Owner’s Manual” which explains how your body systems work and how to maintain them. The first article in the series included a picture of my wife, fitness coach Kathie Lamir, who exemplifies a healthy body. Pictures of Kathie were so well received that I have included one with each article in the series

Fitness Authority Kathie Lamir

The Skeletal System

What Does The Skeletal System Do?

Your skeleton is important for several reasons, some of which are obvious and some of which are not.

Mainly, of course, your skeleton supports your body and gives it structure. Without your skeleton, your body would collapse into a heap.

In addition, your skeleton serves as a point of attachment for your skeletal muscles, protects your internal organs and stores chemical energy and certain minerals, such as calcium and phosphorous. And don’t forget that blood cells are made in the bone marrow of your larger bones.

Skeletal System

What Makes Up The Skeletal System?

Bones

The skeletal system in an adult body is made up of 206 individual bones. These bones are arranged into two major divisions: the axial skeleton and the appendicular skeleton.

The axial skeleton runs along the body’s midline axis and is made up of 80 bones in the following regions:

    Skull

    The skull is composed of 22 bones that are fused together except for the mandible. These 21 fused bones are separate in children to allow the skull and brain to grow, but fuse to give added strength and protection as an adult. The mandible remains as a movable jaw bone and forms the only movable joint in the skull with the temporal bone.

    The bones of the superior portion of the skull are known as the cranium and protect the brain from damage. The bones of the lower front portion of the skull are known as facial bones and support the eyes, nose, and mouth.

    Hyoid and Auditory Ossicles

    The hyoid is a small, U-shaped bone found just below the mandible. The hyoid is the only bone in the body that does not form a joint with any other bone—it is a floating bone. The hyoid’s function is to help hold the trachea open and to form a bony connection for the tongue muscles.

    The malleus, incus, and stapes — known collectively as the auditory ossicles — are the smallest bones in the body. Found in a small cavity inside of the temporal bone, they serve to transmit and amplify sound from the eardrum to the inner ear.

    Vertebrae

    Twenty-six vertebrae form the vertebral column of the human body. They are named by region:

    • Cervical (neck) – 7 vertebrae
    • Thoracic (chest) – 12 vertebrae
    • Lumbar (lower back) – 5 vertebrae
    • Sacrum – 1 vertebra
    • Coccyx (tailbone) – 1 vertebra

    With the exception of the singular sacrum and coccyx, each vertebra is named for the first letter of its region and its position along the superior-inferior axis. For example, the most superior (highest) thoracic vertebra is called T1 and the most inferior (lowest) is called T12.

    Ribs and Sternum

    The sternum, or breastbone, is a thin, knife-shaped bone located along the midline of the anterior (front) side of the thoracic region of the skeleton. The sternum connects to the ribs by thin bands of cartilage called the costal cartilage.

    There are 12 pairs of ribs that together with the sternum form the ribcage of the thoracic region. The first seven ribs are known as “true ribs” because they connect the thoracic vertebrae directly to the sternum through their own band of costal cartilage. Ribs 8, 9, and 10 all connect to the sternum through cartilage that is connected to the cartilage of the seventh rib, so we consider these to be “false ribs.” Ribs 11 and 12 are also false ribs, but are also considered to be “floating ribs” because they do not have any cartilage attachment to the sternum at all.

The appendicular skeleton is made up of 126 bones in the following regions:

    Pectoral (Shoulder) Gurdle

    The pectoral girdle connects the upper limb (arm) bones to the axial skeleton and consists of the left and right clavicles and left and right scapulae.

    Upper Limbs

    The humerus is the bone of the upper arm. It forms the ball and socket joint of the shoulder with the scapula and forms the elbow joint with the lower arm bones. The radius and ulna are the two bones of the forearm. The ulna is on the medial side (closer to the body) of the forearm and forms a hinge joint with the humerus at the elbow. The radius allows the forearm and hand to turn over at the wrist joint.

    The lower arm bones form the wrist joint with the carpals, a group of eight small bones that give added flexibility to the wrist. The carpals are connected to the five metacarpals that form the bones of the hand and connect to each of the fingers. Each finger has three bones known as phalanges, except for the thumb, which only has two phalanges.

    Pelvic Gurdle

    Formed by the left and right hip bones, the pelvic girdle connects the lower limb (leg) bones to the axial skeleton.

    Lower Limbs

    The femur is the largest bone in the body and the only bone of the thigh (femoral) region. The femur forms the ball and socket hip joint with the hip bone and forms the knee joint with the tibia and patella. Commonly called the kneecap, the patella is special because it is one of the few bones that are not present at birth. The patella forms in early childhood to support the knee for walking and crawling.

    The tibia and fibula are the bones of the lower leg. The tibia is much larger than the fibula and bears almost all of the body’s weight. The fibula is mainly a muscle attachment point and is used to help maintain balance. The tibia and fibula form the ankle joint with the talus, one of the seven tarsal bones in the foot.

    The tarsals are a group of seven small bones that form the posterior (rear) end of the foot and heel. The tarsals form joints with the five long metatarsals of the foot. Then each of the metatarsals forms a joint with one of the set of phalanges in the toes. Each toe has three phalanges, except for the big toe, which only has two phalanges.

5 Interesting Facts About The Skeletal System

  1. The femur, or thigh bone, is the largest bone in your body. The femur is about 1/4 of a person’s overall height.

  2. The smallest bone is the stirrup, deep in your ear. It’s about the size of a grain of rice.

  3. The bone that is broken most often is the collarbone. The scientific name for the collarbone is the clavicle.

  4. A baby is born with more bones than an adult. Many bones making up the skull and the spine fuse together as the body grows and becomes older.

  5. The hyoid bone, in your throat, is the only bone in your body not attached to another bone.

Types of Bones

All of the bones of the body can be broken down into five types: long, short, flat, irregular, and sesamoid.

    Long bones

    Long bones are longer than they are wide and are the major bones of the limbs. Long bones grow more than the other classes of bone throughout childhood and so are responsible for the bulk of our height as adults. A hollow medullary cavity is found in the center of long bones and serves as a storage area for bone marrow. Examples of long bones include the femur, tibia, fibula, metatarsals, and phalanges.

    Short bones

    Short bones are about as long as they are wide and are often cubed or round in shape. The carpal bones of the wrist and the tarsal bones of the foot are examples of short bones.

    Flat bones

    Flat bones vary greatly in size and shape, but have the common feature of being very thin in one direction. Because they are thin, flat bones do not have a medullary cavity like the long bones. The frontal, parietal, and occipital bones of the cranium — along with the ribs and hip bones—are all examples of flat bones.

    Irregular bones

    Irregular bones have a shape that does not fit the pattern of the long, short, or flat bones. The vertebrae, sacrum, and coccyx of the spine—as well as the sphenoid, ethmoid, and zygomatic bones of the skull—are all irregular bones.

    Sesamoid bones

    The sesamoid bones are formed after birth inside of tendons that run across joints. Sesamoid bones grow to protect the tendon from stresses and strains at the joint and can help to give a mechanical advantage to muscles pulling on the tendon. The patella and the pisiform bone of the carpals are the only sesamoid bones that are counted as part of the 206 bones of the body. Other sesamoid bones can form in the joints of the hands and feet, but are not present in all people.

Articulations

An articulation, or joint, is a point of contact between bones, between a bone and cartilage, or between a bone and a tooth. Synovial joints are the most common type of articulation and feature a small gap between the bones. This gap allows a free range of motion and space for synovial fluid to lubricate the joint. Fibrous joints exist where bones are very tightly joined and offer little to no movement between the bones. Fibrous joints also hold teeth in their bony sockets. Finally, cartilaginous joints are formed where bone meets cartilage or where there is a layer of cartilage between two bones. These joints provide a small amount of flexibility in the joint due to the gel-like consistency of cartilage.

How Does The Skeletal System Work?

Some of the functions of the skeletal system are obvious, but some others are less so.

Structure

Perhaps the most obvious function of the skeletal system is to provide the rigid framework for the body. It is certainly difficult to envision what the human organism would resemble without the underlying support of the skeleton. The intricate arrangement of our bones allows us to achieve a uniquely upright posture. The “fit” of our bones where they form joints allows for complex movements while maintaining stability.

Protection

The vulnerable organs of the body, like the heart, lungs and brain, are protected by the skeleton from a variety of potential dangers. The spinal column combines the protective element of rigid bone with the maintenance of mobility between the spine segments to protect the delicate spinal cord. The skeletal system has a protective role over many of the body’s other organ systems.

Movement

While the muscular system is primarily responsible for body movements, the familiar movements of the human body are only made possible because the muscles are attached to the bones of the skeleton. This elaborate system of levers makes it possible for us to walk, run, jump, lift and climb. In this way, the skeletal system enables the muscular system to accomplish its necessary functions.

Blood Production

Bone marrow is that part of certain bones that is responsible for the production of blood cells. Both red and white blood cells are manufactured in bone marrow. That makes the skeletal system a necessary partner of the circulatory and immune systems. According to “The Anatomy and Physiology Learning System Textbook,” an average of 2.6 million red blood cells are produced in the bone marrow every second.

Mineral Storage

Blood levels of calcium and other minerals must remain at fairly consistent levels for nerves to conduct efficiently, for muscles to contract properly and for glands to help regulate bodily functions. When dietary intake is inadequate or when the blood levels of these minerals become low, the body can borrow minerals from the skeleton. This exchange of minerals between the bones and the blood is always in flux according to the changing needs of the body. So the skeletal system again plays a supporting role for the nervous, muscular and endocrine (glandular) systems.

What Can Go Wrong With Your Skeletal System?

Fracture

Fracture, or breakage of a bone, is the most common skeletal injury. The breakage can be complete or partial, depending upon the intensity or severity of the impact and other pathological factors.

Sprain

Sprain is a severe painful injury to a ligament or tissue that covers a joint. It is one of the most common types of injuries of the skeletal system that occurs due to a sudden wrench that stretches or tears the tissues of the ligaments, causing swelling in the affected area.

Bursitis

Bursitis is a disorder that causes pain in the body’s joints especially shoulder and hip joints due to excessive activity of an arm or leg. Bursitis primarily occurs due to inflammation of the bursa, small fluid-filled bags which serve as lubricating surfaces for muscles to move over bones.

Osteoporosis

Of the many skeletal system disorders, osteoporosis is the most common disorder that occurs due to loss of bone tissue, hormonal imbalance, genetic disposition, etc. It’s commonly observed in elderly people and in women, and results from a reduction in calcium and phosphorous in the bones.

Osteomyelitis

Osteomyelitis is an infection of bone marrow that occurs due to a certain strain of the Staphylococcus bacteria, transported by the blood to the bones from infected areas. Osteomyelitis is characterized by intense pain in the infected bone, fever, chills, nausea and weakness.

Arthritis

Arthritis is a common joint disorder caused by inflammation of the joints in the body. It’s characterized by pain, swelling, stiffness and tenderness in the infected part. Aging, injury, infection, mineral deficiency or hereditary factors are some common causes of arthritis.

Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease caused due to breakdown and eventual loss of the cartilage of one or more joints. Osteoarthritis usually occurs in synovial joints (in the limbs) where the articular cartilage wears away, increasing friction, pain and stiffness in the joints during normal movement.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid Arthritis is a chronic, systematic inflammatory disorder of the synovial lining of joints. The joints are initially painful, swollen and are usually affected symmetrically but as rheumatoid arthritis progresses, the ligaments supporting the joints get ruptured, causing erosion of the bone and long term deformity of the joints.

Scoliosis

Scoliosis is a skeletal system disorder which causes an abnormal curve (‘s’ or ‘c’ shape) of the spine or backbone. In most cases, the cause of scoliosis is unknown, however it becomes apparent during adolescence and usually affects girls more than boys.

Kyphosis

Also called hunchback, Kyphosis a forward bending of the spine due to deformation of the bones in the upper part of the spine. It’s a spinal deformity caused by degenerative diseases like tuberculosis, syphilis, and rheumatoid arthritis.

Spina Bifida

Spina Bifida is a spinal defect present at the time of childbirth. In this, the spinal cord does not grow properly and the vertebrae and skin are unable to shape themselves around it. Spina Bifida results from an error in the development of the embryo due to intake of alcohol, excessive medications or over exposure to extreme heat a month after a woman becomes pregnant.

How Do Your Keep Your Skeletal System Healthy?

For a healthy skeletal system, follow these tips . . .

  1. Eat calcium-rich foods. The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons recommends that men and women get at least 1,000 mg of calcium each day. (Women older than 50 and teens need more calcium.) Milk, cheese and other dairy products contain calcium. Broccoli, kale, sardines, salmon, Brazil nuts, almonds, oranges and calcium-fortified foods are good sources of calcium as well. The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons indicates that getting 1,000 mg of calcium through diet alone may be difficult and therefore suggests a vitamin supplement as well.

    And eat foods with vitamin D to assist in calcium absorption. The recommended daily amount of vitamin D is 15 micrograms for all adults up to age 70 and 20 micrograms for adults older than 70.. Foods with vitamin D include dairy, eggs, fatty fish such as salmon or tuna and fortified orange juice and cereal. Exposure to the sun triggers vitamin D synthesis to produce vitamin D, as well.

  2. Perform at least 30 minutes of weight-bearing exercise at least twice a week. Building muscle also increases bone density which prevents osteoporosis. You don’t necessarily need weights or equipment to build muscle. Pushups, squats and planks and other body-weight exercises strengthen muscles over most of the body.

  3. Protect your body. Wear your seat belt when driving and a helmet when using a motorcycle. Use headgear when engaged in sports that could lead to brain damage such as football, in-line skating, bicycling and horseback riding.

This article is part of a series called “Your Body: An Owner’s Manual” which explains how your body systems work and how to maintain them. The first article in the series included a picture of my wife, fitness coach Kathie Lamir, who exemplifies a healthy body. Pictures of Kathie were so well received that I have included one with each article in the series

Fitness Coach Kathie Lamir

The Respiratory System

What Does The Respiratory System Do?

The respiratory system brings air into the body and removes carbon dioxide.

When you breathe in, air enters your nose or mouth and goes down a long tube called the trachea. The trachea branches into two bronchial tubes, or primary bronchi, which go to the lungs. The primary bronchi branch off into even smaller bronchial tubes, or bronchioles. The bronchioles end in the alveoli, or air sacs.

Oxygen follows this path and passes through the walls of the air sacs and blood vessels and enters the blood stream. At the same time, carbon dioxide passes into the lungs and is exhaled.

Respiratory System

What Makes Up The Respiratory System?

The respiratory system can be divided into the upper and lower respiratory tracts.

Upper Respiratory Tract

    Mouth, nose & nasal cavity

    The function of this part of the system is to warm, filter and moisten the incoming air.

    Pharynx

    Here the throat divides into the trachea (wind pipe) and esophagus (food pipe). There is also a small flap of cartilage called the epiglottis which prevents food from entering the trachea.

    Larynx

    This is also known as the voice box as it is where sound is generated. It also helps protect the trachea by producing a strong cough reflex if any solid objects pass the epiglottis.

Lower Respiratory Tract

    Trachea

    Also known as the windpipe, this is the tube which carries air from the throat into the lungs. It ranges from 3/4 inch to 1 inch in diameter and 4 inches to 6 inches in length. The inner membrane of the trachea is covered in tiny hairs called cilia, which catch particles of dust which we can then remove through coughing. The trachea is surrounded by 15-20 C-shaped rings of cartilage at the front and side which help protect the trachea and keep it open. They are not complete circles due to the position of the esophagus immediately behind the trachea and the need for the trachea to partially collapse to allow the expansion of the esophagus when swallowing large pieces of food.

    Bronchi

    The trachea divides into two tubes called bronchi, one entering the left and one entering the right lung. The left bronchi is narrower, longer and more horizontal than the right. Irregular rings of cartilage surround the bronchi, whose walls also consist of smooth muscle. Once inside the lung the bronchi split several ways, forming tertiary bronchi.

    Bronchioles

    Tertiary bronchi continue to divide and become bronchioles, very narrow tubes, less than 1 millimeter in diameter. There is no cartilage within the bronchioles and they lead to alveolar sacs.

    Alveoli

    Individual hollow cavities contained within alveolar sacs (or ducts). Alveoli have very thin walls which permit the exchange of gases Oxygen and Carbon Dioxide. They are surrounded by a network of capillaries, into which the inspired gases pass. There are approximately 3 million alveoli within an average adult lung.

    Diaphragm

    The diaphragm is a broad band of muscle which sits underneath the lungs, attaching to the lower ribs, sternum and lumbar spine and forming the base of the thoracic cavity.

How Does The Respiratory System Work?

At the top of the respiratory system, the nostrils act as the air intake, bringing air into the nose, where it’s warmed and humidified. Tiny hairs called cilia protect the nasal passageways and other parts of the respiratory tract, filtering out dust and other particles that enter the nose through the breathed air.

5 Interesting Facts About The Respiratory System

  1. The right lung is slightly larger than the left.

  2. The breathing rate is faster in children and women than in men.

  3. We breathe about 9 to 20 times every minute.

  4. We inhale and exhale air about 22,000 times per day and in the process, transport about 300 cubic feet of air.

  5. The surface area of the lungs is roughly the same size as a tennis court.

Air can also be taken in through the mouth. These two openings of the airway (the nasal cavity and the mouth) meet at the pharynx, or throat, at the back of the nose and mouth. (The pharynx is part of the digestive system as well as the respiratory system because it carries both food and air.)

At the bottom of the pharynx, this pathway divides in two, one for food (the esophagus, which leads to the stomach) and the other for air. The epiglottis, a small flap of tissue, covers the air-only passage when we swallow, keeping food and liquid from going into the lungs.

The larynx, or voice box, is the uppermost part of the air-only pipe. This short tube contains a pair of vocal cords, which vibrate to make sounds.

The trachea, or windpipe, extends downward from the base of the larynx. It lies partly in the neck and partly in the chest cavity. The walls of the trachea are strengthened by stiff rings of cartilage to keep it open. The trachea is also lined with cilia, which sweep fluids and foreign particles out of the airway so that they stay out of the lungs.

At its bottom end, the trachea divides into left and right air tubes called bronchi, which connect to the lungs. Within the lungs, the bronchi branch into smaller bronchi and even smaller tubes called bronchioles. Bronchioles end in tiny air sacs called alveoli, where the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide actually takes place. Each lung houses about 300-400 million alveoli.

The alveoli are surrounded by a mesh of tiny blood vessels called capillaries. Oxygen from the inhaled air passes through the alveoli walls and into the blood.

After absorbing oxygen, the blood leaves the lungs and is carried to your heart. Your heart then pumps it through your body to provide oxygen to the cells of your tissues and organs.

As the cells use the oxygen, carbon dioxide is produced and absorbed into the blood. Your blood then carries the carbon dioxide back to your lungs, where it is removed from the body when you exhale.

The breathing process is aided by a large dome-shaped muscle under the lungs called the diaphragm.

When you breathe in, the diaphragm contracts downward, creating a vacuum that causes a rush of fresh air into the lungs.

The opposite occurs with exhalation, where the diaphragm relaxes upwards, pushing on the lungs, allowing them to deflate.

What Can Go Wrong With Your Respiratory System?

Asthma

Asthma is a chronic inflammatory lung disease that causes airways to tighten and narrow. Often triggered by irritants in the air such as cigarette smoke, asthma involve contraction of the muscles and swelling of the lining of the tiny airways. The resulting narrowing of the airways prevents air from flowing properly, causing wheezing and difficulty breathing, sometimes to the point of being life-threatening.

Bronchiolitis

Not to be confused with bronchitis, bronchiolitis is an inflammation of the bronchioles, the smallest branches of the bronchial tree. Bronchiolitis affects mostly infants and young children, and can cause wheezing and serious difficulty breathing.

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

COPD is a term that describes two lung diseases — emphysema and chronic bronchitis:

  • Long-term smoking often causes emphysema. In emphysema, the lungs produce an excessive amount of mucus and the alveoli become damaged. It becomes difficult to breathe and get enough oxygen into the blood.

  • In bronchitis, a common disease of adults and teens, the membranes lining the larger bronchial tubes become inflamed and an excessive amount of mucus is produced. The person develops a bad cough to get rid of the mucus. Cigarette smoking is a major cause of chronic bronchitis.

Common Cold

Caused by over 200 different viruses that cause inflammation in the upper respiratory tract, the common cold is the most common respiratory infection. Symptoms may include a mild fever, cough, headache, runny nose, sneezing, and sore throat.

Cough

A cough is a symptom of an illness, not an illness itself. There are many different types of cough and many different causes, ranging from not-so-serious to life-threatening. Some of the more common causes aare the common cold, asthma, sinusitis, seasonal allergies and pneumonia. Among the most serious causes of cough are tuberculosis (TB) and whooping cough (pertussis).

Cystic Fibrosis (CF)

Cystic fibrosis is the most common inherited disease affecting the lungs. Affecting primarily the respiratory and digestive systems, CF causes mucus in the body to be abnormally thick and sticky. The mucus can clog the airways in the lungs and make a person more vulnerable to bacterial infections.

Lung Cancer

Caused by an abnormal growth of cells in the lungs, lung cancer is a leading cause of death in the United States and is usually caused by smoking cigarettes. It starts in the lining of the bronchi and takes a long time to develop, so it’s generally a disease in adults. Symptoms include a persistent cough that may bring up blood, chest pain, hoarseness, and shortness of breath.

Pneumonia

This inflammation of the lungs usually occurs because of bacterial or viral infection. Pneumonia causes fever and inflammation of lung tissue, and makes breathing difficult because the lungs have to work harder to transfer oxygen into the bloodstream and remove carbon dioxide from the blood. Common causes of pneumonia are influenza and infection with the bacterium Streptococcus pneumoniae.

Pulmonary Hypertension

This condition occurs when the blood pressure in the arteries of the lungs is abnormally high, which means the heart has to work harder to pump blood against the high pressure.

How Do Your Keep Your Respiratory System Healthy?

To keep your respiratory System healthy, don’t smoke, of course. In addition, be sure to do these things . . .

  1. Live plants. Keeping lots of live plants in your home to increase oxygen levels and absorb CO2 and toxins will contribute to your respiratory health.

  2. Eat a diet rich in nutrients necessary for a healthy respiratory system. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, low levels of certain nutrients have been linked to lung diseases. It recommends eating foods rich in vitamins A, C and E and the minerals zinc, potassium, selenium and magnesium.

  3. Drink plenty of water. This helps thin mucus secretions that accumulate in your lungs, making it easier to breathe. You typically lose about 6 cups of fluids daily, so you should take in at least this much water each day.

This article is part of a series called “Your Body: An Owner’s Manual” which explains how your body systems work and how to maintain them. The first article in the series included a picture of my wife, fitness coach Kathie Lamir, who exemplifies a healthy body. Pictures of Kathie were so well received that I have included one with each article in the series

Fitness Coach Kathie Lami

The Reproductive System

What Does The Reproductive System Do?

Life is sexually transmitted. Through the reproductive system.

The reproductive system is a collection of organs that work together to produce a new human life.

Sperm from the male fertilizes the female’s egg, or ovum, in the fallopian tube. The fertilized egg travels from the fallopian tube to the uterus, where the fetus develops over a period of nine months.

What Makes Up The Reproductive System?

Male Reproductive System

There are external and internal components of the male reproductive system.

Male Reproductive System

External Reproductive Structures

    Penis

    The penis is the male organ for sexual intercourse. It has three parts: the root, which attaches to the wall of the abdomen; the body, or shaft; and the glans, which is the cone-shaped end of the penis. The glans, which also is called the head of the penis, is covered with a loose layer of skin called foreskin. (This skin is sometimes removed in a procedure called circumcision.) The opening of the urethra, the tube that transports semen and urine, is at the tip of the glans penis. The penis also contains a number of sensitive nerve endings.

    The body of the penis is cylindrical in shape and consists of three internal chambers. These chambers are made up of special, sponge-like erectile tissue. This tissue contains thousands of large spaces that fill with blood when the man is sexually aroused. As the penis fills with blood, it becomes rigid and erect, which allows for penetration during sexual intercourse. The skin of the penis is loose and elastic to accommodate changes in penis size during an erection.

    Semen, which contains sperm, is expelled (ejaculated) through the end of the penis when the man reaches sexual climax (orgasm). When the penis is erect, the flow of urine is blocked from the urethra, allowing only semen to be ejaculated at orgasm.

    5 Interesting Facts About The Reproductive System

    1. At birth, a woman has between 1 and 2 million potential eggs. By the time she reaches puberty, she has 300,000 to 400,000. However, she only releases about 300 to 400 during her child-bearing years.

    2. About 500 million sperm mature every day in a healthy male.

    3. The average lifespan of an egg once it is released from the ovary is 12-24 hours.

    4. The average life span of a sperm is 2-3 days.

    5. The female human body is capable of giving birth to 35 children in one lifetime.

    Scrotum

    The scrotum is the loose pouch-like sac of skin that hangs behind the penis. It contains the testicles (also called testes), as well as many nerves and blood vessels. The scrotum has a protective function and acts as a climate control system for the testes. For normal sperm development, the testes must be at a temperature slightly cooler than the body temperature. Special muscles in the wall of the scrotum allow it to contract and relax, moving the testicles closer to the body for warmth and protection or farther away from the body to cool the temperature.

    Testicles (testes)

    The testes are oval organs about the size of large olives that lie in the scrotum, secured at either end by a structure called the spermatic cord. Most men have two testes. The testes are responsible for making testosterone, the primary male sex hormone, and for generating sperm. Within the testes are coiled masses of tubes called seminiferous tubules. These tubules are responsible for producing the sperm cells through a process called spermatogenesis.

    Epididymis

    The epididymis is a long, coiled tube that rests on the backside of each testicle. It functions in the transport and storage of the sperm cells that are produced in the testes. It also is the job of the epididymis to bring the sperm to maturity, since the sperm that emerge from the testes are immature and incapable of fertilization. During sexual arousal, contractions force the sperm into the vas deferens.

Internal Reproductive Organs

    Vas deferens

    The vas deferens is a long, muscular tube that travels from the epididymis into the pelvic cavity, to just behind the bladder. The vas deferens transports mature sperm to the urethra in preparation for ejaculation.

    Ejaculatory ducts

    These are formed by the fusion of the vas deferens and the seminal vesicles. The ejaculatory ducts empty into the urethra.

    Urethra

    The urethra is the tube that carries urine from the bladder to outside of the body. In males, it has the additional function of expelling (ejaculating) semen when the man reaches orgasm. When the penis is erect during sex, the flow of urine is blocked from the urethra, allowing only semen to be ejaculated at orgasm.

    Seminal vesicles

    The seminal vesicles are sac-like pouches that attach to the vas deferens near the base of the bladder. The seminal vesicles produce a sugar-rich fluid (fructose) that provides sperm with a source of energy and helps with the sperms’ motility (ability to move). The fluid of the seminal vesicles makes up most of the volume of a man’s ejaculatory fluid, or ejaculate.

    Prostate gland

    The prostate gland is a walnut-sized structure that is located below the urinary bladder in front of the rectum. The prostate gland contributes additional fluid to the ejaculate. Prostate fluids also help to nourish the sperm. The urethra, which carries the ejaculate to be expelled during orgasm, runs through the center of the prostate gland.

    Bulbourethral glands

    The bulbourethral glands, or Cowper’s glands, are pea-sized structures located on the sides of the urethra just below the prostate gland. These glands produce a clear, slippery fluid that empties directly into the urethra. This fluid serves to lubricate the urethra and to neutralize any acidity that may be present due to residual drops of urine in the urethra.

Female Reproductive System

The female reproductive anatomy includes both external and internal structures.

Female Reproductive System

External Reproductive Structures

    Labia majora

    The labia majora (“large lips”) enclose and protect the other external reproductive organs. During puberty, hair growth occurs and the skin of the labia majora, which also contain sweat and oil-secreting glands.

    Labia minora

    The labia minora (“small lips”) can have a variety of sizes and shapes. They lie just inside the labia majora, and surround the openings to the vagina (the canal that joins the lower part of the uterus to the outside of the body) and urethra (the tube that carries urine from the bladder to the outside of the body).

    Bartholin’s glands

    These glands are located next to the vaginal opening on each side and produce a fluid (mucus) secretion.

    Clitoris

    The two labia minora meet at the clitoris, a small, sensitive protrusion that is comparable to the penis in males. The clitoris is covered by a fold of skin, called the prepuce, which is similar to the foreskin at the end of the penis. Like the penis, the clitoris is very sensitive to stimulation and can become erect.

Internal Reproductive Organs

    Vagina

    The vagina is a canal that joins the cervix (the lower part of uterus) to the outside of the body. It also is known as the birth canal. The vagina is about 3 to 5 inches (8 to 12 centimeters) long in a grown woman

    Uterus (womb)

    The uterus is a hollow, pear-shaped organ that is the home to a developing fetus. The uterus is divided into two parts: the cervix, which is the lower part that opens into the vagina, and the main body of the uterus, called the corpus. The corpus can easily expand to hold a developing baby. A canal through the cervix allows sperm to enter and menstrual blood to exit. The uterus contains some of the strongest muscles in the female body. These muscles are able to expand and contract to accommodate a growing fetus and then help push the baby out during labor. When a woman isn’t pregnant, the uterus is only about 3 inches (7.5 centimeters) long and 2 inches (5 centimeters) wide. The lining of the uterus is called the endometrium, and has a rich capillary supply to bring food to any embryo that might implant there.

    Ovaries

    The ovaries are small, oval-shaped glands that are located on either side of the uterus. The ovaries produce eggs and hormones. The ovaries are also part of the endocrine system because they produce female sex hormones such as estrogen and progesterone

    Fallopian tubes

    These are narrow tubes that are attached to the upper part of the uterus and serve as pathways for the ova (egg cells) to travel from the ovaries to the uterus. Fertilization of an egg by a sperm normally occurs in the fallopian tubes. The fertilized egg then moves to the uterus, where it implants to the uterine lining. The fallopian tubes are about 4 inches (10 centimeters) long and about as wide as a piece of spaghetti.

How Does The Reproductive System Work?

The ovaries release one “egg” (or ovum) each month. The egg travels along the Fallopian tubes toward the uterus. As this is happening, the endometrium, or lining of the uterus, becomes thick with fluid and blood (to prepare a suitable home for a growing baby).

If a female has sexual intercourse with a male during this time, pregnancy is possible.

At the peak of sexual intercourse, the male ejaculates, releasing millions of sperm through the woman’s vagina toward the uterus. Some of the sperm reach the uterus and then the fallopian tube, where one meets the egg, fertilizing (or joining) it.

This fertilized egg then attaches to the wall of the uterus. (If the egg is not fertilized, the egg as well as the thick lining that has recently developed will shed themselves through the vagina.)

The human fetus requires about nine months within the uterus to prepare itself for birth. During this time, the baby is nourished by whatever the mother brings into her body, reaching the fetus via a tube called the umbilical cord.

When the baby is ready for birth, the muscles of the uterus begin contracting (tightening and loosening) in preparation for the actual pushing out of the baby. During labor, the muscles of the vagina, formerly a narrow tube, widen enough to allow the passage of the baby. With the delivery of the child, the reproductive system has completed the process of reproduction.

What Can Go Wrong With Your Reproductive System?

Male Reproductive Problems

Disorders of the Scrotum, Testicles, or Epididymis

    Testicular injury

    Even a mild injury to the testicles can cause severe pain, bruising, or swelling. Most testicular injuries occur when the testicles are struck, hit, kicked, or crushed, usually during sports or due to other trauma. Testicular torsion is when one of the testicles twists around, cutting off its blood supply.

    Varicocele

    This is a varicose vein (an abnormally swollen vein) in the network of veins that run from the testicles. Varicoceles commonly develop while a guy is going through puberty. A varicocele is usually not harmful, although in some people it may damage the testicle or decrease sperm production.

    Testicular cancer

    This is one of the most common cancers in men younger than 40. It occurs when cells in the testicle divide abnormally and form a tumor. Testicular cancer can spread to other parts of the body, but if it’s detected early, the cure rate is excellent.

    Epididymitis

    Inflammation of the epididymis, the coiled tubes that connect the testes with the vas deferens. It is usually caused by an infection, such as the sexually transmitted disease chlamydia, and results in pain and swelling next to one of the testicles.

    Hydrocele

    A hydrocele occurs when fluid collects in the membranes surrounding the testes. Hydroceles may cause swelling in the scrotum around the testicle but are generally painless. In some cases, surgery may be needed to correct the condition.

    Inguinal hernia

    When a portion of the intestines pushes through an abnormal opening or weakening of the abdominal wall and into the groin or scrotum, it is known as an inguinal hernia. The hernia may look like a bulge or swelling in the groin area. It can be corrected with surgery.

Disorders of the Penis

    Inflammation of the penis

    Symptoms of penile inflammation include redness, itching, swelling, and pain. Balanitis occurs when the glans (the head of the penis) becomes inflamed. Posthitis is foreskin inflammation, which is usually due to a yeast or bacterial infection.

    Hypospadius

    A disorder in which the urethra opens on the underside of the penis, not at the tip.

    Hypogonadism

    When the testicles do not produce enough testosterone.

Female Reproductive Problems

Disorders of the Vagina

    Vulvovaginitis

    An inflammation of the vulva and vagina. It may be caused by irritating substances (such as laundry soaps or bubble baths). Poor personal hygiene (such as wiping from back to front after a bowel movement) may also cause this problem. Symptoms include redness and itching in the vaginal and vulvar areas and sometimes vaginal discharge. Vulvovaginitis can also be caused by an overgrowth of candida, a fungus normally present in the vagina.

    Nonmenstrual vaginal bleeding

    Most commonly due to the presence of a vaginal foreign body, often wadded-up toilet paper. It may also be due to urethral prolapse, a condition in which the mucous membranes of the urethra protrude into the vagina and form a tiny, donut-shaped mass of tissue that bleeds easily. It can also be due to a straddle injury (such as when falling onto a beam or bicycle frame) or vaginal trauma from sexual abuse.

Disorders of the Ovaries and Fallopian Tubes

    Ectopic Pregnancy

    When a fertilized egg, or zygote, doesn’t travel into the uterus, but instead grows rapidly in the fallopian tube.

    Endometriosis

    When tissue normally found only in the uterus starts to grow outside the uterus — in the ovaries, fallopian tubes, or other parts of the pelvic cavity. It can cause abnormal bleeding, painful periods, and general pelvic pain.

    Ovarian tumors

    Although rare, they can occur. Women with ovarian tumors may have abdominal pain and masses that can be felt in the abdomen. Surgery may be needed to remove the tumor.

    Ovarian cysts

    Noncancerous sacs filled with fluid or semi-solid material. Although they are common and generally harmless, they can become a problem if they grow very large. Large cysts may push on surrounding organs, causing abdominal pain. In most cases, cysts will disappear on their own and treatment is unnecessary. If the cysts are painful, a doctor may prescribe birth control pills to alter their growth, or they may be removed by a surgeon.

    Polycystic ovary syndrome

    A hormone disorder in which too many male hormones (androgens) are produced by the ovaries. This condition causes the ovaries to become enlarged and develop many fluid-filled sacs, or cysts. It often first appears during the teen years. Depending on the type and severity of the condition, it may be treated with drugs to regulate hormone balance and menstruation.

Menstrual Problems

    Dysmenorrhea

    When a woman has painful periods.

    Menorrhagia

    When a woman has a very heavy periods with excess bleeding.

    Oligomenorrhea

    When a woman misses or has infrequent periods, even though she’s been menstruating for a while and isn’t pregnant.

    Amenorrhea

    When a woman hasn’t started her period by the time she is 16 years old or 3 years after starting puberty, has not developed signs of puberty by age 14, or has had normal periods but has stopped menstruating for some reason other than pregnancy.

Infections of the Female Reproductive System

    Sexually transmitted infections.

    These include infections and diseases such as pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), human immunodeficiency virus/acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (HIV/AIDS), human papilloma virus (HPV, or genital warts), syphilis, chlamydia, gonorrhea, and genital herpes. Most are spread from one person to another by sexual intercourse.

    Toxic shock syndrome.

    This uncommon illness is caused by toxins released into the body during a type of bacterial infection that is more likely to develop if a tampon is left in too long. It can produce high fever, diarrhea, vomiting, and shock.

How Do Your Keep Your Reproductive System Healthy?

To keep your reproductive system healthy, follow these tips . . .

  1. Practice safe sex. Some sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) can render you infertile. Many of these diseases have no symptoms at first, so you can severely damage your fertility before you know you have them.

  2. Exercise it. Some studies suggest that a few male ejaculations per week will help keep the reproductive system healthy.

  3. Lead a healthy lifestyle. A nutritious, balanced diet, as well as regular physical activity will not only keep you fit; it will also ensure that your reproductive system is in good shape and functioning at peak efficiency.

This article is part of a series called “Your Body: An Owner’s Manual” which explains how your body systems work and how to maintain them. The first article in the series included a picture of my wife, fitness coach Kathie Lamir, who exemplifies a healthy body. Pictures of Kathie were so well received that I have included one with each article in the series

Fitness Coach Kathie Lamir

The Nervous System

What Does The Nervous System Do?

The nervous system is the control system and the network of communication for your body.

Think of your brain as a central computer that controls all voluntary and involuntary bodily functions.

Your “computer” acts through a network that relays messages back and forth from the brain to different parts of the body.

When a message comes into the brain from anywhere in the body, the brain tells the body how to react. For example, if you accidentally touch a hot stove, the nerves in your skin shoot a message of pain to your brain. The brain then sends a message back telling the muscles in your hand to pull away. Fortunately, all of this occurs lightning fast.

Nervous System

What Makes Up The Nervous System?

The nervous system consists of two main parts, the central nervous system (CNS) and the peripheral nervous system (PNS).

Central Nervous System

The CNS is made up of the brain and spinal cord.

  • The Brain

    The brain is made up of three main sections: the forebrain, the midbrain, and the hindbrain.

      The Forebrain

      The forebrain is the largest and most complex part of the brain. It consists of the cerebrum — the area with all the folds and grooves typically seen in pictures of the brain — as well as some other structures beneath it.

      The cerebrum contains the information that essentially makes us who we are: our intelligence, memory, personality, emotion, speech, and ability to feel and move. Specific areas of the cerebrum are in charge of processing these different types of information. These are called lobes, and there are four of them: the frontal, parietal, temporal, and occipital.

      The cerebrum has right and left halves, called hemispheres, which are connected in the middle by a band of nerve fibers (the corpus collosum) that enables the two sides to communicate. Though these halves may look like mirror images of each other, many scientists believe they have different functions. The left side is considered the logical, analytical, objective side. The right side is thought to be more intuitive, creative, and subjective. So when you’re balancing the checkbook, you’re using the left side; when you’re listening to music, you’re using the right side. It’s believed that some people are more “right-brained” or “left-brained” while others are more “whole-brained,” meaning they use both halves of their brain to the same degree.

      The outer layer of the cerebrum is called the cortex (also known as “gray matter”). Information collected by the five senses comes into the brain from the spinal cord to the cortex. This information is then directed to other parts of the nervous system for further processing. For example, when you touch the hot stove, not only does a message go out to move your hand but one also goes to another part of the brain to help you remember not to do that again.

      In the inner part of the forebrain sits the thalamus, hypothalamus, and pituitary gland. The thalamus carries messages from the sensory organs like the eyes, ears, nose, and fingers to the cortex. The hypothalamus controls the pulse, thirst, appetite, sleep patterns, and other processes in our bodies that happen automatically. It also controls the pituitary gland, which makes the hormones that control our growth, metabolism, digestion, sexual maturity, and response to stress.

      The Midbrain

      The midbrain, located underneath the middle of the forebrain, acts as a master coordinator for all the messages going into the brain and out of the brain to the spinal cord.

      The Hindbrain

      The hindbrain sits underneath the back end of the cerebrum, and it consists of the cerebellum, pons, and medulla. The cerebellum — also called the “little brain” because it looks like a small version of the cerebrum — is responsible for balance, movement, and coordination.

      The pons and the medulla, along with the midbrain, are often called the brainstem. The brainstem takes in, sends out, and coordinates all of the brain’s messages. It also controls many of the body’s automatic functions, like breathing, heart rate, blood pressure, swallowing, digestion, and blinking.

  • The Spinal Cord

    The spinal cord is a bundle of nerve tissue about 18 inches long and ¾ inch thick. It extends from the lower part of the brain down through your spine. Along the way, various nerves branch out to the entire body.

    Both the brain and the spinal cord are protected by bone, the brain by the bones of the skull and the spinal cord by a set of ring-shaped bones called vertebrae. They’re both cushioned by layers of membranes called meninges as well as a special fluid called cerebrospinal fluid. This fluid helps protect the nerve tissue, keep it healthy, and remove waste products.

Peripheral Nervous System

The PNS includes all the parts of the nervous system outside of the brain and spinal cord. It has several parts.

5 Interesting Facts About The Nervous System

  1. Your adult brain weighs about 3 pounds.

  2. There are millions of nerve cells in your body. In fact, the number exceeds the number of stars in the Milky Way Galaxy.

  3. The right side of your brain controls the left side of your body, while the left side of your brain controls the right side.

  4. As you grow older, your brain shrinks by a gram each year.

  5. At a given point of time, only four percent of the cells in your brain are active, the rest are kept in reserve.
  • Somatic Nervous System
    The somatic nervous system (SNS) is a division of the PNS that controls your voluntary actions. The SNS is the only consciously controlled part of the PNS and is responsible for stimulating skeletal muscles in the body. So, when I wanted my fingers to type these words, my SNS did the job.

  • Autonomic Nervous System
    The autonomic nervous system (ANS) is a division of the PNS that controls all of your involuntary actions.

    There are 3 divisions of the autonomic nervous system: the sympathetic and parasympathetic divisions, and the enteric nervous system.

      Sympathetic. The sympathetic division forms the body’s “fight or flight” response to stress, danger, excitement, exercise, emotions, and embarrassment. The sympathetic division increases respiration and heart rate, releases adrenaline and other stress hormones, and decreases digestion to cope with these situations.

      Parasympathetic. The parasympathetic division forms the body’s “rest and digest” response when the body is relaxed, resting, or feeding. The parasympathetic works to undo the work of the sympathetic division after a stressful situation. Among other functions, the parasympathetic division works to decrease respiration and heart rate, increase digestion, and permit the elimination of wastes.

      Enteric Nervous System. The enteric nervous system (ENS) is the division of the ANS that is responsible for regulating digestion and the function of the digestive organs. The ENS receives signals from the central nervous system through both the sympathetic and parasympathetic divisions of the autonomic nervous system to help regulate its functions. However, the ENS mostly works independently of the CNS and continues to function without any outside input. For this reason, the ENS is often called the “brain of the gut” or the body’s “second brain.” The ENS is an immense system—almost as many neurons exist in the ENS as in the spinal cord.

  • How Does The Nervous System Work?

    The basic functioning of the nervous system depends mostly on tiny cells called neurons. The brain has billions of them, and they have many specialized jobs. For example, sensory neurons take information from the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, and skin to the brain. Motor neurons carry messages away from the brain and back to the rest of the body.

    All neurons, however, relay information to each other through a complex electrochemical process, making connections that affect the way we think, learn, move, and behave.

    Intelligence, Learning, and Memory

    At birth, the nervous system contains all the neurons you will ever have, but many of them are not connected to each other. As you grow and learn, messages travel from one neuron to another over and over, creating connections, or pathways, in the brain. It’s why driving seemed to take so much concentration when you first learned but now is second nature: The pathway became established.

    As we age, the brain has to work harder to make new neural pathways, making it more difficult to master new tasks or change established behavior patterns. That’s why many scientists believe it’s important to keep challenging your brain to learn new things and make new connections— it helps keeps the brain active over the course of a lifetime.

    Memory is another complex function of the brain. The things we’ve done, learned, and seen are first processed in the cortex, and then, if we sense that this information is important enough to remember permanently, it’s passed inward to other regions of the brain (such as the hippocampus and amygdala) for long-term storage and retrieval. As these messages travel through the brain, they too create pathways that serve as the basis of our memory.

    Movement

    Different parts of the cerebrum are responsible for moving different body parts. The left side of the brain controls the movements of the right side of the body, and the right side of the brain controls the movements of the left side of the body.

    Basic Body Functions

    A part of the peripheral nervous system called the autonomic nervous system is responsible for controlling many of the body processes we almost never need to think about, like breathing, digestion, sweating, and shivering. The autonomic nervous system has two parts: the sympathetic and the parasympathetic nervous systems.

    The Senses

    Your spouse may be a sight for sore eyes at the end of a long day — but without the brain, you wouldn’t even recognize him or her. Pizza sure is delicious — but without the brain, your taste buds wouldn’t be able to tell if you were eating pizza or the box it came in. None of your senses would be useful without the processing that occurs in the brain.

    • Sight. Sight probably tells us more about the world than any other sense. Light entering the eye forms an upside-down image on the retina. The retina transforms the light into nerve signals for the brain. The brain then turns the image right-side up and tells us what we are seeing.

    • Hearing. Every sound we hear is the result of sound waves entering our ears and causing our eardrums to vibrate. These vibrations are then transferred along the tiny bones of the middle ear and converted into nerve signals. The cortex then processes these signals, telling us what we are hearing.

    • Taste. The tongue contains small groups of sensory cells called taste buds that react to chemicals in foods. Taste buds react to sweet, sour, salty, and bitter. Messages are sent from the taste buds to the areas in the cortex responsible for processing taste.

    • Smell. Olfactory cells in the mucous membranes lining each nostril react to chemicals we breathe in and send messages along specific nerves to the brain— which, according to experts, can distinguish between more than 10,000 different smells. With that kind of sensitivity, it’s no wonder research suggests that smells are very closely linked to our memories.

    • Touch. The skin contains more than 4 million sensory receptors — mostly concentrated in the fingers, tongue, and lips — that gather information related to touch, pressure, temperature, and pain and send it to the brain for processing and reaction.

    Cellular Level

    NeuronThe neuron is the basic unit in the nervous system. It is a specialized conductor cell that receives and transmits electrochemical nerve impulses. A typical neuron has a cell body and long arms that conduct impulses from one body part to another body part.

    There are three different parts of the neuron: the cell body, dendrites and axon.

    • Cell body of a neuron. The cell body is like any other cell with a nucleus or control center.

    • Dendrites. The cell body has several highly branched, thick extensions that appear like cables and are called dendrites. The exception is a sensory neuron that has a single, long dendrite instead of many dendrites. Motor neurons have multiple thick dendrites. The dendrite’s function is to carry a nerve impulse into the cell body.

    • Axon. An axon is a long, thin process that carries impulses away from the cell body to another neuron or tissue. There is usually only one axon per neuron.

    The neuron is covered with the Myelin Sheath or Schwann Cells. These are white segmented covering around axons and dendrites of many peripheral neurons. The covering is continuous along the axons or dendrites except at the point of termination and at the nodes of Ranvier.

    The neurilemma is the layer of Schwann cells with a nucleus. Its function is to allow damaged nerves to regenerate. Nerves in the brain and spinal cord do not have a neurilemma and, therefore cannot recover when damaged.

What Can Go Wrong With Your Nervous System?

Because the brain controls just about everything, when something goes wrong with it, it’s often serious and can affect many different parts of the body. Inherited diseases, brain disorders associated with mental illness, and head injuries can all affect the way the brain works and upset the daily activities of the rest of the body.

These are some of the more common nervous system abnormalities.

Brain tumors

A brain tumor is an abnormal tissue growth in the brain. A tumor in the brain may grow slowly and produce few symptoms until it becomes large, or it can grow and spread rapidly, causing severe and quickly worsening symptoms. Brain tumors can be benign or malignant. Benign tumors usually grow in one place and may be curable through surgery if they’re located in a place where they can be removed without damaging the normal tissue near the tumor. A malignant tumor is cancerous and more likely to grow rapidly and spread.

Cerebral palsy

Cerebral palsy is the result of a developmental defect or damage to the brain before or during a child’s birth, or during the first few years of life. It affects the motor areas of the brain. A person with cerebral palsy may have average intelligence or can have severe developmental delays or mental retardation. Cerebral palsy can affect body movement in many different ways. In mild cases of cerebral palsy, there may be minor muscle weakness of the arms and legs. In other cases, there may be more severe motor impairment.

Epilepsy

This condition is made up of a wide variety of seizure disorders. Partial seizures involve specific areas of the brain, and symptoms vary depending on the location of the seizure activity. Other seizures, called generalized seizures, involve a larger portion of the brain and usually cause uncontrolled movements of the entire body and loss of consciousness when they occur. Although the specific cause is unknown in many cases, epilepsy can be related to brain injury, tumors, or infections. The tendency to develop epilepsy may be inherited in families.

Headaches

Of the many different types of headaches, the most frequently occurring include tension headache (the most common type), caused by muscle tension in the head, neck, and shoulders; migraine, an intense, recurring headache with an unclear cause; and cluster headache, considered by some to be a form of migraine. Migraines occur with or without warning and may last for several hours or days. There seems to be an inherited predisposition to migraines as well as certain triggers that can lead to them. People with migraines may experience dizziness, numbness, sensitivity to light, and nausea, and may see flashing zigzag lines before their eyes.

Meningitis and encephalitis

These are infections of the brain and spinal cord that are usually caused by bacteria or viruses. Meningitis is an inflammation of the coverings of the brain and spinal cord, and encephalitis is an inflammation of the brain tissue. Both conditions may result in permanent injury to the brain.

Mental illness

Mental illnesses are psychological and behavioral in nature and involve a wide range of problems in thought and function. Certain mental illnesses are now known to be linked to structural abnormalities or chemical dysfunction of the brain. Some mental illnesses are inherited, but often the cause is unknown. Injuries to the brain and chronic drug or alcohol abuse also can trigger some mental illnesses.

Head injuries

Head injuries fit into two categories: external (usually scalp) injuries and internal head injuries. Internal injuries may involve the skull, the blood vessels within the skull, or the brain..

Concussions

Concussions are also a type of internal head injury. A concussion is the temporary loss of normal brain function as a result of an injury. Repeated concussions can result in permanent injury to the brain.

How Do Your Keep Your Nervous System Healthy?

In addition to doing all the things you normally do to maintain good overall health, follow these tips to keep your nervous system healthy:

  1. Drink plenty of water. Your brain is eighty-five percent water. If you don’t drink enough water, your brain won’t work as well as it could

  2. Give your brain the nutrition it needs. Lack of B vitamins can cause anxiety, depression, headaches, pain in your arms or legs, dizziness, confusion, memory problems, mania and fatigue. You can boost your B vitamin consumption by eating eggs, milk, yogurt, beef, liver, fish, poultry, beans, peas, enriched cereals. and green, leafy vegetables.

    Potassium and calcium are also important nutrients for your brain to function well. Calcium helps your nervous system respond to and heal from injuries. You can get calcium from dairy products such as yogurt, milk and cheese, as well as from tofu, oranges, beans, salmon and leafy, green vegetables. Potassium is necessary for basic neuron functioning. Potassium-rich foods include bananas, squash, sweet potatoes, yogurt, potatoes and broccoli.

    A variety of other vitamins and nutrients can keep your nervous system running strong. Vitamin A boosts eye health, helping your retinas function well. A lack of vitamin A can lead to night blindness and vision problems. Vitamin A is abundant in sweet potatoes, beef liver and carrots. Vitamin C helps your body produce the neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine, which can prevent depression. Vitamin C-rich foods include oranges, berries, lemons and grapefruit. Vitamin D also helps your nervous system because it allows your body to absorb calcium. Vitamin D is found in tuna, salmon and fortified milk.

  3. Exercise your nervous system every day. A good way to do this is to write on paper as neatly as you can for 10 or 15 minutes a day. The simple act of writing requires that you use all major components of your conscious motor and sensory pathways; a number of different sensory receptors, peripheral nerves, synaptic connections within your spinal cord, major tracts within your spinal cord, and nerve tissue throughout your brain need to be utilized with great precision and coordination to produce neatly written words.

    Writing with pen on paper is far more effective at exercising your nervous system than writing with a keyboard on a computer, as typing on a keyboard doesn’t require as much fine motor control as writing on paper.

This article is part of a series called “Your Body: An Owner’s Manual” which explains how your body systems work and how to maintain them. The first article in the series included a picture of my wife, fitness coach Kathie Lamir, who exemplifies a healthy body. Pictures of Kathie were so well received that I have included one with each article in the series

Fitness Expert Kathie Lamir

The Muscular System

What Does The Muscular System Do?

The muscular system has three major functions: producing movement, generating heat and maintaining balance.

Every movement of your body occurs because of muscles. You are aware of, and control, much of your movement, such as when you move your arms or legs. However, there is other muscular movement that you do not control, such as the movement of food down your throat or the beating of your heart.

Muscles also generate heat. When muscles contract, they release heat, and this helps the body maintain its normal temperature.

And muscles maintain posture. Most muscles in your body are always a little contracted. This tension, or muscle tone, which is present even when you are sleeping, maintains your posture.

Muscular System

What Makes Up The Muscular System?

You have more than 600 muscles divided among three types of muscle tissue: skeletal, smooth and cardiac. Muscles make up roughly half of your body weight.

Skeletal Muscle

Skeletal muscles help the body move. Skeletal muscles are the only voluntary muscle tissue in the human body and control every action that a person consciously performs. Most skeletal muscles are attached to two bones across a joint, so the muscle serves to move parts of those bones closer to each other.

Smooth Muscle

Smooth muscles, which are also called visceral muscles, are located inside organs, such as the stomach, intestines and blood vessels. These muscles are called smooth muscles because they do not have the banded appearance of skeletal or cardiac muscle. The weakest of all muscle tissues, visceral muscles contract to move substances through the organ. Because visceral muscle is controlled by the unconscious part of the brain, it is known as involuntary muscle.

Cardiac Muscle

Found only in the heart, cardiac muscle is responsible for pumping blood throughout the body. The heart’s natural pacemaker is made of cardiac muscle that signals other cardiac muscles to contract. Like visceral muscles, cardiac muscle tissue is controlled involuntarily. While hormones and signals from the brain adjust the rate of contraction, cardiac muscle stimulates itself to contract.

How Does The Muscular System Work?

Muscles function by contracting. In fact, muscles are the only tissue in the body that has the ability to contract.

    5 Interesting Facts About The Muscular System

  1. You sit on the largest muscle in your body, the Gluteus Maximus.

  2. The hardest working muscles are in the eye. Scientists estimate they may move more than 100,000 times a day!

  3. It takes 17 muscles to smile and 42 muscles to frown.

  4. There are muscles in the root of your hair that give you goose bumps.

  5. Muscles account for about 40% your body weight.

Nerve cells called motor neurons control the skeletal muscles. Each motor neuron controls several muscle cells in a group known as a motor unit. When a motor neuron receives a signal from the brain, it stimulates all of the muscles cells in its motor unit at the same time.

The size of motor units varies throughout the body, depending on the function of a muscle. Muscles that perform fine movements — like those of the eyes or fingers — have very few muscle fibers in each motor unit to improve the precision of the brain’s control over these structures. Muscles that need a lot of strength to perform their function — like leg or arm muscles — have many muscle cells in each motor unit. One of the ways that the body can control the strength of each muscle is by determining how many motor units to activate for a given function. This explains why the same muscles that are used to pick up a pencil are also used to pick up a bowling ball.

Because muscles function by contracting, not extending, many muscles work in pairs to allow movement in opposing directions.

Most skeletal muscles are attached to two bones through tendons. Tendons are tough bands of dense connective tissue that firmly attach muscles to bones.

Muscles move by shortening their length, pulling on tendons, and moving bones closer to each other. One of the bones is pulled towards the other bone, which remains stationary. The place on the stationary bone that is connected via tendons to the muscle is called the origin. The place on the moving bone that is connected to the muscle via tendons is called the insertion. The belly of the muscle is the fleshy part of the muscle in between the tendons that does the actual contraction.

Your arm muscles are a good example. When you contract your biceps muscle, it shortens and pulls the ulna bone in your forearm closer to your upper arm bone, the humerus. When you lower your arm, you relax your biceps and contract the opposing muscle, your triceps.

Although the process is not exactly the same, smooth muscle and cardiac muscle also function by contracting.

What Can Go Wrong With Your Muscular System?

These are some of the problems that can affect your muscular system:

Muscle Sprains

Ligaments are bands of fibrous tissue that connect bones together and help to stabilize joints. When those ligaments are stretched or torn, the result is a muscle sprain, which can cause pain and stiffness.

Muscle Strain

When muscles are stretched or torn, a muscle strain results. Sometimes, these are called “pulled muscles.” They often occur when the muscles are suddenly and powerfully contracted or when they stretch unusually far.

Myopathies

Myopathies are muscle diseases that affect skeletal muscles and are caused by genetic problems or metabolic disorders. Most types of myopathies result in weak skeletal muscles and often develop at a young age.

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Chronic fatigue syndrome is a syndrome that’s still being researched by physicians and results in extreme fatigue that doesn’t go away with rest. Symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome include loss of memory, difficulty concentrating, fatigue, random muscle pain, headaches, unrefreshing sleep and sore throats.

Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia is a chronic disorder characterized by widespread muscle pain, stiffness, fatigue, and tenderness in localized areas. While this is a difficult disease to pinpoint and diagnose and can mimic many other medical problems, it has gained acceptance as a recognized health issue over the past decade. Approximately 2% of the entire US population is affected by fibromyalgia.

Muscular Dystrophy

Muscular dystrophy is a genetic disease that damages muscle fibers. The symptoms of muscular dystrophy disease include weakness, loss of mobility and lack of coordination. More than 50,000 Americans suffer with one of the nine forms of the disease, which can occur at any time in a person’s life and has no cure. Most types of muscular dystrophy are caused by the deficiency of a protein known as dystrophin.

Compartment Syndrome

Compartment syndrome is an uncommon exercised induced syndrome and causes pain, swelling and sometimes disability in a person’s legs or arms. Compartment syndrome is more common among athletes but can affect anyone.

Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral palsy impacts posture, balance and motor functions. Brain damage during or before childbirth causes a loss of muscle tone, making it difficult to perform everyday tasks. It is one of the most common congenital disorders.

Myasthenia gravis

Myasthenia gravis is a chronic autoimmune disease that results in muscle weakness and fatigue. A breakdown of the neuromuscular junction causes the brain to lose control over these muscles, which can result in difficulty breathing and swallowing.

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), often referred to as “Lou Gehrig’s disease,” is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain. It is a fatal disease that affects 30,000 Americans at any one time and leads to a loss of control over voluntary muscle movement, making it increasingly difficult to swallow, breath and speak. The disease ultimately causes paralysis and death.

How Do Your Keep Your Muscular System Healthy?

To keep your muscular system healthy, follow these three tips:

  1. Eat a balanced diet. Your muscles need vitamins, minerals, water, protein, carbohydrates and healthy fats so that they can function at their best. Eat a diet rich in natural whole foods such as fruit, vegetables and grains to ensure you are getting adequate nutrients to keep your muscles in good shape. Your muscles are made up of around 70 percent water so make sure you drink at least eight tall glasses of water a day to stay well hydrated.

  2. Do strength training. Strength training, sometimes called weight training or resistance training, will improve your muscular strength and endurance. Perform two to three whole-body workouts per week on non-consecutive days to get the most from your training. You can work out by using resistance machines, dumbbells, barbells, resistance bands or body weight exercises–all of which are effective for improving the condition of your muscular system.

  3. Stretch. Your muscles need to be stretched regularly to keep them in good shape. Stretch all of your major muscles at least after each workout and preferably every day. Muscles often tighten between or after exercises, as a result of sitting for long periods and as part of the aging process. Stretching will lengthen your muscles and prevent exercise-related and age-related shortening. Stretch your muscles gently, holding each stretch for 30 seconds or more. You might also consider a yoga class, which involves a lot of stretching.

This article is part of a series called “Your Body: An Owner’s Manual” which explains how your body systems work and how to maintain them. The first article in the series included a picture of my wife, fitness coach Kathie Lamir, who exemplifies a healthy body. Pictures of Kathie were so well received that I have included one with each article in the series

Fitness Coach Kathie Lamir

Cherry Blossoms

You’ve probably heard about the cherry blossoms in Washington, DC, but do you know the story behind them?

In 1912, the people of Japan gave 3,020 cherry trees to the people of the United States as a gift of friendship. Those trees were planted in three places around Washington, most prominently at the Tidal Basin.

Each year, there is a National Cherry Blossom Festival which coincides with the blooming of the cherry trees. The cherry blossoms appear at different times each year, depending on the weather. The average date for the trees to bloom is April 4 and they usually last for about two weeks.

Here’s how the cherry blossoms looked this year . . .


Bug And Blossoms

Cherry Blossoms

Cherry Blossoms And Washington Monument

Cherry Blossoms

Red Cherry Blossoms

Cherry Blossoms

The Tidal Basin

Cherry Blossoms

Couple Enjoying The Cherry Blossoms

Cherry Blossoms

Ghosts At The Jefferson Memorial

Ghosts At The Jefferson Memorial

You can see more cherry blossom photos here.