Category Archives: Keep Learning

One key to a vibrant life is constantly improving yourself. Learn a new skill. Improve an existing skill. Resolve to be better tomorrow than you are today.

These 5 Practices Will Make You Happier, Healthier And More Successful . . . At Any Age

The tagline for Forever Young Blog is “How To Be Happier, Healthier And More Successful . . . At Any Age” yet it occurred to me that I have never written an article on just that.

To correct my omission, I offer these suggestions.

1. Exercise And Make Healthy Eating Choices. Every Day.

Exercise

Move your body every day. 30 minutes is optimal, but anything is better than nothing. Establish the exercise habit.

Especially if you are a recovering couch potato, start slowly and build up. (Always consult your physician before starting or radically changing a fitness program.)

Make sure your exercise regime includes cardiovascular exercise and strength training. You need both.

Especially when you are starting out, choose exercises that you like. If you don’t like running, use a cross-trainer. If you don’t like the cross-trainer, swim. If you don’t like swimming, ride a bicycle. Play basketball. Play volleyball. Dance. If you don’t like any other exercise, walk. The fact is, you simply won’t continue doing something you hate. So find exercises you like, or at least dislike the least.

That’s the exercise part. Pretty simple, huh?

Actually, it’s quite simple. Yet, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), almost 70% of Americans are overweight (weigh too much) and 35.7% of American adults are obese (have too much body fat, a BMI of 30 or higher). We are the second fattest country in the world, after only Mexico.

To beat these odds, focus on the increased energy and improved outlook that an exercise habit will give you. On the inevitable days you don’t feel like exercising . . . do it anyway. Sometimes you will get into it and be glad you started. Even on days when it never gets easy, you will be satisfied with yourself for toughing it out. Trust me: the benefits are worth working for.

Food plateHealthy eating is as important to your fitness as your exercise program. Maybe more so. Fitness experts often say that you can’t exercise away a bad diet. If you are eating crap, you won’t be fit even with adequate exercise.

Eat foods from all the food groups every day – fruits, vegetables, grains, protein and dairy. And eliminate, or minimize, the fitness killers such as fried and processed foods. If you must have them, save doughnuts, french fries, chips, hot dogs, sausages and sugary cereal for your 21st meal, a concept that I created and explain here.

By the way, protein includes more than red meat. Try eggs, fish, avocado and nuts instead of artery-clogging red meat.

The reason this advice to get and stay healthy is listed first is that the rest of the list requires a strong body and the energy that comes with good health and fitness.

Health and fitness will provide a number of unanticipated benefits, too.

Fitness can help overcome injuries. I have some experience with that myself. I have been able to live an active life despite having had a herniated disc in my low back for more than 10 years because I am otherwise in good condition and the muscles surrounding and supporting my injury are strong. (Of course, I am not saying that you can exercise away all injuries. Get your medical advice from your doctor, not from some bozo with a blog.)

Exercise, nutrition and fitness are the best ways to slow the aging process. In fact, studies have shown that most of the maladies we associate with aging are actually caused not by aging but by lack of activity.

Here’s the bottom line: It feels good to feel good. So, clean up your diet and get moving!

2. Keep Learning. Every day.

Keep LearningTo reach your potential, and even just to keep up in this fast-paced world, you must keep learning and improving. If you are not moving forward, you are sliding backward.

You must continually gather new information, learn new skills and improve old ones.

Here’s a counter-intuitive suggestion: explore subjects and study things you don’t already know about and, in fact, might not even think will interest you. Exposure to different things will spur your imagination and creativity by teaching you different perspectives.

Fortunately, this is the best time in the history of the world to learn. Thanks to the Internet – the most important invention during my lifetime and, arguably, in all history – all of the world’s knowledge and wisdom are at your fingertips.

Here a few random, implementing recommendations:

  • Read every day for 1 to 2 hours.

  • Read on your digital products instead of on paper. Paper products are bad for the planet and not as portable or retrievable. So read newspapers, magazines, blogs, etc. on your digital devices.

  • Use one of the fabulous news aggregator apps. My favorite is a free app called Zite (which is now owned by Flipboard). You tell the app what subjects interest you and the app searches the Internet for the best information on your topics and gives it to you in magazine format. It is basically a recommendation engine. For example, although I change this from time to time, my Zite app currently serves me articles about the wide-ranging subjects of entrepreneurship, healthy living, philosophy & spirituality, photography, psychology, social media, sports, technology, travel, productivity and atheism. I start every day sampling this smorgasbord of information on my iPad while I eat breakfast. Without fail, I read something that informs, intrigues or inspires me.

  • Take online courses. There is an educational revolution going on. Anyone with an Internet connection and a desire to learn can take free courses from the most prestigious colleges and universities in the world. Don’t miss this opportunity!

3. Take Action On Your Goals. Right Away And Every Day.

Take Action!Ideas are awesome. Goals are magic. But unless they are married to action, ideas and goals are just dreams.

I recently read a great story about Richard Branson. In the early 80s, he was best known for creating Virgin Records. In 1984, he conceived the idea of creating a high quality airline. Only 3 months later, after leasing a plane, leasing space at airports, getting licenses and hiring staff, Virgin Atlantic Airways was born. 3 Months! I have been told that he took action on his idea the very day it occurred to him. As I was told the story, before the day was over he had leased an airplane and was in the process of leasing airport space and hiring staff.

Wow. You may not have the assets of billionaire Branson (yet), so you may not be able to implement such large ideas immediately (yet), but you can certainly take immediate action on most of your good ideas and goals.

In other words, the best way to start is to start. Get moving. Take action.

Most people never act on their ideas and goals, and most of those who take action quit when they aren’t instantly successful. But you can’t.

Immediate, and then persistent, action is the key to success in all areas of your life.

4. Travel

I surprised even myself with how important I think travel is.

Traveling isn’t just about going on a vacation to escape the stresses of everyday life, although that certainly is valuable.

Traveling is about getting out of your routine, even out of your comfort zone, and exposing yourself to different cultures, people, foods, activities, languages, activities, sights. No curious person comes back from a journey the way they started it..

Through travel you will inevitably start thinking a different way.

You will understand different perspectives and have new insights.

Here is one insight I have reached from traveling: even though different in many ways, people throughout the world have more in common with each other than not. There really aren’t any significant “us” and “them” divisions. It’s just us, the family of man.

If you doubt that, just look at this rendition of the universe.

Earth In Universe

The most important thing all 7 billion of us share is that we are passengers on an insignificantly tiny planet in a vast universe. Compared to that shared reality, such things as national boundaries, different religions and languages and virtually every other difference become insignificant.

5. Live Congruent With Your Core Values.

Live your valuesKnow who you are and what you stand for.

If you have never done this, you should identfy your core values. This article suggests a 3-step process for doing this. And this article lists as many possible values as I could think of or find.

Values are personal, and yours will be different than mine. However, for whatever benefit this example might have, these are my 5 core values (copied straight from my journal, where they are the first entry that I see every day):

  1. Action
  2. Continuous improvement
  3. Achievement
  4. Fairness & Justice
  5. Kindness

There is nothing magic about five core values. You could have two or 22. Or any other number. The important thing is that you recognize what your values are.

Once you know what your values are, live them. Living authentically brings serenity.

Final Thoughts

1. You can start these practices any time. It’s never too soon to start. And it’s never too late. You will always benefit.

2. You don’t have to be perfect to benefit from these practices. You just have to be better than you were to see obvious improvements in your life. How cool is that?

3. Follow these practices to lead an extraordinary life full of experiences, contributions, creations and, of course, good times.

In the comments section, please share your advice for how to be happier, healthier and more successful . . . at any age.

Morning Laughfest

Morning LaughfestAt 6:30 this morning, I tried something new: I devoted 5 Good Minutes to reading humor. (Afraid that I would look up and find that it was time for lunch, I actually set the timer on my phone.)

My hope was that a morning laughfest would set a positive, even rollicking, tone for the day.

I turned to Winning With One-Liners which was compiled by Pat Williams.

I love one-liners, and I have written about them before, here . . . and here . . . and here . . . and here.

In his book, Williams did what I have done in my articles, he stole material from some very funny people. Here are just two examples from Winning With One-Liners . . .

    “Well, Jerry,” said his father as he glanced at his report card, “one thing that’s in your favor is that with grades like these, you couldn’t possibly be cheating.”

    “Mom, why am I the tallest kid in third grade. Is it because I’m Irish?”
    “No, it’s because you’re eighteen.”

And one more for good measure . . .

    Teacher: “What’s a supervisor?”
    Student: “It’s something that Superman wears to keep the sun out of his eyes.”

Oh, hell, one more, these things are addictive . . .

    He’s so rich that, when he flies, his wallet is considered carry-on luggage.

I’m not sure I actually laughed at any of these, but they certainly made me smile and buoyed my spirits. Mission accomplished.

Did you know that laughter has actual physical benefits? Studies have shown that it boosts your immunity, lowers stress hormones, decreases pain, relaxes muscles and even prevents heart disease. Maybe doctors should have shticks that are not tongue depressors.

There are also mental health benefits. Laughter adds joy and zest to life, eases anxiety and fear, relieves stress, improves mood and enhances resilience. Wow, I’m going to start taking two puns three times a day with meals.

And, to finish the trifecta, laughter also has social benefits. It strengthens relationships, attracts others to us, enhances teamwork, helps defuse conflict and promotes group bonding.

Having mastered the benefits of laughter, I think that tomorrow I will go after the benefits of exercise. But taking up gymnastics may be harder than I thought. I just learned that parallel bars are not two taverns across the street from each other.

I Am Out!

The Out Campaign is a public awareness initiative begun by the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science.

Out CampaignThe campaign encourages atheists to “come out” and be open about their atheism.

The purpose, or at least a benefit of the initiative, is to show that atheists come in all shapes, sizes, colors and personalities. Atheists are laborers and professionals. Atheists are mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, sisters, brothers and grandparents. They are liberals and conservatives, Democrats and Republicans. Atheists are good friends and good citizens.

I support The Out Campaign. So, I am in. That is, I am out.

The Problem

Currently, the general public view of atheists and atheism is, well, beyond belief (pun intended).

A Gallup poll before the 2012 presidential election asked whether respondents would vote for presidential candidates who belonged to various religious, ethnic or gender groups. This was the result:

Gallup Poll

As you see, there was a near-unanimous willingness to trust black, female, Catholic, Hispanic and Jewish candidates. Mormons and gays were less acceptable, and there was a great deal of distrust of Muslims. But atheists were the least acceptable candidates. (Distrust of atheists was most pronounced among Republicans and the elderly.)

Distrust of atheists is not a new phenomenon. Researchers at the University of Minnesota told us in 2006 that “atheists are less likely to be accepted, publicly and privately, than any others from a long list of ethnic, religious, and other minority groups.”

And a study done by researchers at The University of British Columbia and the University of Oregon, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology in 2011, found that atheists were considered even less trustworthy than rapists!

OMG! (irony intended)

Myths About Atheists

These poll and study results are driven by a long list of common myths about atheists and atheism. Australian writer and philosopher Russell Blackford has written a book titled 50 Great Myths About Atheism.

Let’s shed a little light on a few of the most common myths about atheism.

Myth: Atheists Don’t Have A Moral Code

This myth does the most harm, so let’s get to it first.

Believing that one cannot be good without God, many theists believe that atheists have no morals.

I recall a particular conversation I had with a friend – an otherwise good, smart, thoughtful person that I like and respect – where she reacted to learning that I was an atheist with something like this: “if you are an atheist then you don’t believe in anything. You must think it is all right to murder, rape and steal.”

Actually, atheism correlates to better behavior on average. Atheists are under-represented in prison, for instance, and the more religious nations have higher rates of violent crime and teen pregnancy.

So, yes, atheists have a moral code. Atheists manage to do good without fear of eternal damnation if they don’t.

That leads to an interesting question: is it more moral to help the poor out of concern for their suffering or because you think the creator of the universe wants you to do it, will reward you for doing it or will punish you for not doing it?

There is a moral and ethical code that is programmed into humans which is unrelated to religion. If all religion disappeared tomorrow, would all formerly religious people immediately start murdering, raping and robbing? Of course not.

These are two atheistic expressions of morality from famous people that make a lot of sense to me . . .

”When I do good, I feel good. When I do bad, I feel bad. That’s my religion.”
Abraham Lincoln

” I’m an atheist, and that’s it. I believe there’s nothing we can know except that we should be kind to each other and do what we can for each other.”
Kathryn Hepburn

Myth: Atheists Are Aggressive And Rude

This notion has been around in various forms for a long time, but it really took off after the rise of “New Atheism,” which focuses its energy on disproving religious claims instead of merely pleading for tolerance of atheists.

Is it more rude for an atheist to say, “I don’t believe in God and here’s why” than for a believer to intrude in your personal space with pamphlets, attack people with religious claims when they’re feeling low, knock on your door to proselytize, or force your children to recite religious language in school.

What constitutes aggressiveness and rudeness depends on your point of view.

Myth: Atheism Is Dogmatic

A definition of dogmatic is “expressing personal opinions or beliefs as if they are certainly correct and cannot be doubted.”

That describes theism, not atheism.

The very essence of the scientific method and reason on which most atheists rely is that nothing is immutable. Anything can be changed based on evidence.

Religion, on the other hand, offers answers that may never be questioned.

If it is dogmatic to reject religious beliefs, then we are all dogmatic. As the programmer Stephen F. Roberts once said: “I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.”

The Out Campaign Can Be Part Of The Solution

Dispelling myths about atheism is important. Knowledge always defeats ignorance in the long run.

It is also important for atheists to be public about their atheism, and demonstrate their utter normality.

There’s actually some science behind this idea that exposure to atheists will reduce prejudice. In social psychology, the Contact Hypothesis states that, under appropriate conditions, interpersonal contact is one of the most effective ways to reduce prejudice between majority and minority group members.

That is what happened with gays and lesbians. As straight people became more familiar with homosexuals – through personal contact as more homosexuals came out and through favorable portrayals of homosexuals in the popular media, such as the television show Will & Grace – and straights saw that gays were more like them than not, homophobia lessened.

There is reason to hope that bias against atheists can be reduced as more atheists “come out.”

Get To Know An Atheist

I avoided writing this post for a number of reasons. I am not an expert on this subject. I do not speak for anyone but me. And, this blog is not about religion and atheism, and I do not want it to be.

I finally decided to write this post to join the Out Campaign in showing how ridiculously normal atheists are.

Just look around this blog. If you do, you will see that, although I am an atheist who does not believe in gods, I am interested in core values, volunteerism, practicing kindness and living by a set of values-based personal rules. Atheists can even be fun and have a sense of humor!

If this shatters a stereotype of yours, I’m glad to have been of service.

Meet Some More Atheists

You are probably aware of recent polls revealing that about 1 in 5 Americans and 1 in 3 Americans under age 30 do not identify with any religion.

Although not all of these non-religious people are atheists, there is still a very good chance that you know atheists, even if you do not know they are atheists.

You also know of many famous inventors, scientists, statesmen, authors, sportsmen, philosophers, business people and performers who happen to be atheists. Here is a list of a few of them . . .

Thomas Edison
Mark Twain
Edgar Allan Poe
Andrew Carnegie
Marie Curie
Helen Keller
Albert Einstein
Stephen Hawking
Warren Buffett
Bill Gates
Carl Sagan
Pat Tillman
Richard Branson
Kurt Vonnegut
Ernest Hemingway
James Baldwin
Clarence Darrow
John-Paul Sartre
Bertrand Russell
Friedrich Nietschke
John Stuart Mill
Karl Marx
Kevin Bacon
Sigmund Freud
Marlon Brando
Billy Joel
Bruce Lee
John Lennon
Bill Maher
Barry Manilow
Rafael Nadal
Jack Nicholson
George Orwell
Brad Pitt
Daniel Radcliffe
Andy Rooney
Ted Turner
Ted Williams
Mark Zuckerberg
Angelina Jolie
Larry King
Gene Wilder
Keanu Reeves
Ayn Rand
Burt Lancaster
Penn Gillette
Isaac Asimov
Pablo Picasso
Vincent Van Gogh
Frank Lloyd Wright
Mick Jagger
James Cameron
Voltaire
Bertrand Russell
Napoleon
Charlie Chaplin
Walt Disney
Geoge Clooney
Barney Frank
Richard Dawkins
Sam Harris
Christopher Hitchens
Daniel Dennett
George Carlin
Heraclitus
Eric Hoffer
Clarence Darrow
James Baldwin
Steven Pinker
Philip Roth
Dave Barry
Albert Camus
George Bernard Shaw
Robert Louis Stevenson
Alfred Nobel
Linus Pauling
Steve Wozniak
Penn Jillette
Larry King
Joaquin Phoenix
Daniel Radcliffe

Conclusion

If you are an atheist, I encourage you to be public about it and to support The Out Campaign.

If you are not an atheist, I invite your comments, pro or con.

Which Comes First, Success Or Happiness?

Does success make you happy, or does happiness lead to success?

Success brings happinessMany believe that once they achieve some particular goal, then they will be happy. If they put their nose to the grindstone and work hard now, they will be successful, and therefore happier, at some distant time.

However, decades of research have shown that when we are happy – that is, our mindset and mood are positive – we are smarter, more motivated and thus more successful.

In other words, happiness brings success, not the other way around.

What Is Happiness, Anyway?

Of course, happiness means different things to different people. And only you can determine what makes you happy and how happy you are.

However, generally, happiness – or “subjective well-being” as scientists often call it – is experiencing positive emotions. It is pleasure combined with deeper feelings of meaning and purpose. Happiness implies a positive mood in the present and a positive outlook for the future.

Aristotle used the term eudaimonia, which translates not directly to “happiness” but to “human flourishing.”

By whatever name, the chief ingredient of happiness is positive emotions since happiness is, above all else, a feeling.

Barbara Fredrickson, Ph.D., a researcher at the University of North Carolina, identifies these as the ten most common positive emotions . . .

  1. Joy
  2. Gratitude
  3. Serenity
  4. Interest
  5. Hope
  6. Pride
  7. Amusement
  8. Inspiration
  9. Awe
  10. Love

How Does Happiness Benefit You?

An analysis of over 200 scientific studies on nearly 275,000 people found that happiness leads to success in nearly every domain of our lives, including marriage, health, friendship, community involvement, creativity and work.

Maybe you are still thinking “of course people who are successful in these areas of their lives are happy. Who wouldn’t be.”

However, study after study shows that happiness precedes important outcomes and indicators of thriving. Happiness causes success and achievement, not the opposite.

Recent research shows that the positive effect of happiness is actually biological. Positive emotions flood our brains with dopamine and serotonin, chemicals that not only make us feel good, but also dial up the learning centers of our brains to higher levels.

Research also shows that you don’t have to be stupefyingly happy to get the positive advantages. Even the smallest shots of positivity can give you a competitive edge.

Positive emotions broaden our intellectual and creative capacities and they counteract physical stress and anxiety.

How To Be Happier

Since positivity is such a good thing, you may be wondering if there are things you can do to increase yours.

If you are lucky, happiness comes naturally to you. Your genetically-determined “set point” of happiness may be higher than others.

But, even if you are not genetically predisposed to be happy, you can reap the benefits of positivity if you work hard enough at it.

If the following activities are performed habitually over time, each has been shown by research to help permanently raise our happiness baseline. (Of course, since happiness is subjective and not the same for everyone, we all have our own favorite happiness booster. And “person-activity fit” is often as important as the activity itself, so if some items on this list do not work for you, don’t force it.)

These are some proven ways to lift your spirits . . .

  • Exercise. As you probably know, exercise releases pleasure-inducing chemicals called endorphins. Exercise also improves your motivation and feelings of mastery, reduces stress and anxiety and helps you get into “flow,” that locked in feeling of total engagement that we usually get when we’re at our most productive.

  • Spend money on experiences, not on stuff. Money can buy happiness, but only if used to do things as opposed to simply have things.

    While the positive feelings we get from material objects are frustratingly fleeting, spending money on experiences, especially with other people, produces positive emotions that are both more meaningful and longer lasting.

  • Find something to look forward to. Often the most enjoyable part of an activity is the anticipation. One study showed that people who thought about watching their favorite movie actually raised their endorphin levels by 27 percent.

    That’s one reason I maintain my travel bucket list.

  • Commit conscious acts of kindness. A long line of research demonstrates that acts of altruism – giving to friends and strangers alike – decrease stress and strongly contribute to enhanced mental health.

  • Infuse positivity into your surroundings. Our physical environment can have an enormous impact on our mindset and sense of well-being.

    So infuse your surroundings with positivity. Put pictures of loved ones or of treasured experiences in your work area, for example.

  • Meditate. Those who spend years meditating, such as monks, actually grow their left prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain most responsible for feeling happy.

    Short of that, daily meditating for as little as 5 minutes can bring feelings of calm and contentment, as well as heightened awareness and empathy.

    Research shows that regular meditation can permanently rewire the brain to raise levels of happiness, lower stress and even improve immune function.

  • Exercise a signature strength . Do things you are good at. Studies have shown that the more you use your signature strengths in daily life, the happier you become.

As you integrate these happiness practices into your daily life, you will start to feel better. But you’ll also start to notice how your enhanced positivity makes you more efficient, motivated and productive and how it opens up opportunities for greater achievement.

** This information is drawn from The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work which I highly recommend.

Not Perfect, Just Better

Do you have goals you would like to pursue, but you don’t because they just seem too difficult? Say, learn another language? Learn money-making skillz? Lose those extra LBs?

When you try to achieve goals but aren’t successful as quickly as you would like, do you get frustrated and give up?

I know I have.

Not Perfect Just BetterLet me tell you about one of my failures.

I had thought for years that I should learn to use Photoshop so I could give my photos a little extra punch.

I even purchased Photoshop. Actually, not full Photoshop, but Photoshop Elements, a powerful but simpler (and less expensive) photo editing program.

But when I opened the program, it looked dauntingly complicated. There were lots of strange terms such as “layers” and the screen had so many icons, menus and selections that it looked like the cockpit of a jet fighter.

I froze. Because I didn’t think I could master Elements, I didn’t try. The program sat on my computer, unused.

Recently, I decided to try again to learn Elements. This time, thought, I tried a different approach. I changed my way of thinking.

And it worked!

This time, instead of focusing on my ultimate goal of mastering Elements, I decided to just learn one skill. I just concentrated on getting better than I was (which wasn’t difficult).

Guided by a YouTube video, I learned how to remove an object from a photo. Using something called the Clone Stamp Tool, I removed a distracting telephone pole from a picture. These are the before and after photos.

Old car and pole

Old car without pole

Even though it was a pretty clumsy job, when I learned that skill, I was jazzed. At that point, I knew about 1% of what there was to know about Elements, but I felt a tremendous sense of accomplishment. I was inspired to learn another skill. So I did.

And then another.

Persistently getting better, skill by skill, was empowering.

Instead of being frustrated because I was miles from “perfecting” my use of Elements, I was energized by my progress.

I kept thinking: “You don’t have to be perfect, just better. Just keep at it. Make persistent, incremental improvements.”

Using this approach, I have now learned quite a few Photoshop Elements skillz and I’m still inspired to learn more.

In addition to learning Elements, I stumbled onto a strategy that I can use to achieve other goals.

Whether we think we can or we think we can’t, we are probably right. That is, our expectations are powerful predictors of whether we will succeed.

When we focus on gigantic goals that we don’t relieve believe we can achieve, we probably won’t.

Instead, we have to focus on goals we think are achievable. Making some progress, getting a little better, is achievable. So that is what I focused on.

It’s really this simple: To achieve your goals, forget about being perfect. Just be better today than you were yesterday. Then, do the same thing tomorrow. And don’t give up.

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