IN THE REHAB ZONE

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Breaking News About the Most Underappreciated Body Part

Bones have gotten a bad rap.

Admit it. Your only associations with bone health are negative. Fractures. Osteoporosis. Maybe cancer. And that’s probably about it.

The mainstream media is full of stories about good heart health, good brain health, even good skin health. But nobody ever talks about “good bone health.”

Even metaphorically, we never talk about bones for anything good. Think about it:

“I’ve got a bone to pick with you.”

“I’m working my fingers to the bone.”

“It hit me a bit too close to the bone.”

Bones always mean bad news. Skeletons are scary, whether on X-rays, at the front door on Halloween, or in our closets. We associate them with graveyards, physical (and moral) decay, and death.

And yet, no body part is more alive, or more essential to life. Without bones, you would die within minutes — make no bones about it.

In this article, the first in a series, I will tell you why I have a soft spot for bones. First, I’ll tell you about all the things that bones actually do in the body. Then I’ll tell you about the single greatest threat to bone health. Finally, in the next issue, I’ll give you the latest breaking news about what you should (and should not) be doing to keep your bones healthy and strong.

Here’s hoping it’s the only breaking bone news you ever get.

Boning Up on Bones

Pop quiz: there are six major functions of bone. How many can you name? (Without cheating.)

Bet you can’t get all six.

Ready?

Go.

Okay, pencils down.

Here are the answers:

  1. Protection. Your skull protects your brain. Your vertebral column protects your spinal cord. Your rib cage protects your lungs and your heart. Your pelvis protects several organs. And all of your bones protect the soft marrow within.
  2. Support. Your bones physically support the weight of your body. They also support your muscles, your organs, and even your teeth.
  3. Movement. Muscle alone cannot create movement. Your bones give your muscles leverage. Without bones, you couldn’t even breathe — your ribs allow your chest to expand and contract. No ribs, no breathing. (That’s why I said without bones, you’d die within minutes.)
  4. Blood Formation. Most blood cells are made in your bone marrow. That includes not only the red blood cells that carry oxygen, but also most circulating cells in the immune system.
  5. Acid-Base Balance. Your bones release acidic and alkaline mineral salts as necessary to maintain the pH balance in your blood. The optimal range for human blood pH is very narrow — just 0.1 on a 14-point scale — and so your bones have to work constantly to make sure that your blood stays in this range.
  6. Electrolyte Balance. Your bones serve as your body’s main mineral storage in the same way that fat is your body’s main energy storage. When your body is hard up for minerals, it turns to your bones to get its fix.

How many did you get?

The first three were easy. The last three were tougher. I would guess that very few of you got all six.

And yet, all six functions are vital for life. Now do you see what I mean about bones being underappreciated?

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