You read that correctly. In women over fifty-five, scientists now believe that anxiety and depression contribute to an increased risk of fractures from osteoporosis. The risk becomes especially true if you already suffer from this most common of bone diseases. Let’s unpack this new research for a closer look.
Your science lesson for today: The frequency of osteoporotic fractures as a result of having osteoporosis– a thinning and loss of bone tissue has drastically increased as people, especially women, live longer. The fractures are due to a variety of factors, including hormone changes, vitamin D deficiency, and lack of calcium absorption. Your osteoporosis risk factor is now one of the leading health-care cost drivers in both Europe and the United States.
Anxiety disorders rank among the most common mental disorders worldwide. With Covid-19 added to the mix of stressors we humans are experiencing, anxiety is at an all-time high for people, everywhere. That’s not good news for the health of our bones, nor our immune systems, brains, and other organs. Before research done by Antonio Catalano MD and Gabriella Martino MD at the University Hospital of Messina, Italy, researchers were more narrowly focused on the psychological effects on women, and to a lesser extent, on men, of living life with osteoporosis. The scope of the previous study included women’s evolving pain levels and their diminished abilities to perform everyday activities because of the occurrence of fractures, which affects a woman’s anxiety level. Women with anxiety disorders almost double their osteoporosis risk factors, versus women who don’t suffer from anxiety.
Higher levels of inflammation—the driver of all disease– appear in those with anxiety, which is a compelling reason to lower our anxiety levels. Higher stress equals more inflammation throughout our bodies due to the sustained release of the hormone cortisol. We end up with a compromised immune system that makes us more susceptible to disease. With Covid-19 and all that is happening in today’s world, chilling out is no longer an option but a critical ingredient to maintaining good health.
Often coupled with anxiety is depression. We know that women who take antidepressants (SSRIs) have a more significant loss of bone density by more than one and a half times than women who don’t take antidepressants. This creates a double-whammy. Not only are the bones being eaten away, but also their density loss leaves us open to debilitating bone fractures, especially hip and vertebrae fractures, which can alter our lives and mobility forever.
Fortified with this information, what can we do to counter these possible devastating effects?
Stop caffeine, all sugar (including alcohol), and all-white flour food products. Increase organic dark leafy greens and the rainbow of other natural vegetables and fruits. (See the list of must-have organics at https://www.ewg.org/foodnews/dirty-dozen.php)
Take up a meditation practice and become diligent about it. Meditation serves as a powerful tool in reducing the production of cortisol, which, along with other hormones, drives our feelings of anxiety. By quieting our minds for at least twenty minutes, ideally twice a day, we give our minds and bodies a rest from the continual churning.
Science, along with virtually all spiritual traditions, tells us our thoughts create feelings. Our feelings interpret how we experience the world around us. During the time we meditate, we stop judging ourselves, our peers, our lives, and our world. The opening we experience from observing our thoughts, without attaching to them allows our bodies to do a re-set. Everything comes back into momentary balance, and after practicing consistently for a while, we find our levels of anxiety have lessened. With it, we experience a greater sense of calm. Our cortisol levels come down, and our bones are more protected.
Biofeedback ranks as another effective strategy for lowering anxiety. It helps us to see, and control, how our thoughts affect our physical reactions. Working with a licensed therapist, electronic monitors are attached to fingers, ears, wrists, or scalp. It works in tandem with a computer program so we can learn to control our body’s response to various thoughts. By raising our awareness of how thoughts affect our physiology, we can experience how directing our thoughts can change the way our body functions. It allows us to increase our coping abilities and create a greater sense of calm and wellbeing. Wow!
Hypnotherapy, refined more than a hundred years ago, can be done with a licensed therapist, or, through self-hypnosis practices using audio guides. It is useful for relieving chronic and acute pain, quitting smoking, and working with anxiety, to mention some of its benefits. This technique slows down the part of our brain responsible for psychological functions such as decision-making, evaluation, emotional responses. It reduces neural activity so that our brain can temporarily downshift to enable rewiring. Our mind then increases the connection between our working memory and self-control. All of which directly influence our pain perceptions and emotions.
The good news is we can lower our risk of osteoporosis by becoming proactive in reducing our anxiety. In the last few decades, science has made great strides in giving us drug-free tools to help us control damaging thought processes and find greater balance and peace.
Until next time…Be Vibrant!
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