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Is young India falling prey to orthopedic problems?

  By : , New Delhi, India       28.6.2013         Phone:+91-011-26925858, 26925801          Fax:-          Mail Now
  Joint Replacement Surgeon, Senior Consultant, Indraprastha Apollo Hospital , New Delhi

How our young generation might be moving towards the threat of an orthopedic epidemic?

Lack of physical activity, low exposure to sun, poor eating and living habits and a high paced life full of stress; all these markers point to an increasingly dangerous threat our young generation is falling prey to – that of weak bones and early onset of osteo-arthritis.

Increasingly, we are getting more patients under 35 years of age with neck related, knee related or other joint related problems; some of the most common problems being reported by the young include knee pain due to early onset of osteo-arthritis and neck pain, primarily because of long hours of sitting in front of computers and televisions.

Lack of exercise and very limited sun exposure means that people are growing up with weaker bones. All this points to the fact that something is going wrong with the way we are living. And if efforts are not made to break this unhealthy cycle of life, long term impact might be dangerous.

Hectic schedules and endless tasks, or wrong priorities I might say, leave little time for people to spare for some essential components for life. Basking in the sun, taking an evening stroll to a park, or spending some time stretching yourself; we keep pushing all these for some other good time.

However, to make sure we have a healthy tomorrow, our young generation should make some key alterations to their present ways of living.

Whenever we receive a young patient complaining of joint or neck pain, our first question to them is about their working patterns and lifestyle and in almost all cases they reveal a life that lacks in physical activity and sun exposure.

Osteoarthritis, a  degenerative joint disease involves degradation of the condition of joints mostly caused due to loss of cartilage and may cause stiffness, locking or pain. When the cartilage around the bone wears out, it leaves the bone of the joint extremely vulnerable to damage.

More often than not, such bone related disorders were associated with older people, but an increasing number of cases of young people presenting with osteoarthritis is indicative of the fact that our young generation has discarded certain crucial components of life – like exercising, playing and taking the right diet.

The young workers of today spend long hours sitting in the same positions, mostly in a wrong posture, at office and do not realize the importance of motion for the joints of the body. Walking or cycling is no longer considered viable; and once they return home they spend the remaining hours of the day watching television.

Lack of exercise and physical activities are most glaringly responsible for weaker bones and early joint related problems. Change in life style leads to unhealthy diet and increased stress at family and at work places.

Bone is living tissue which keeps on growing constantly, old bone tissues are continually replaced by new ones, but the process slows down by the age of 30. People having poor calcium intake, low sun exposure, exposure to polluted water and adulterated food products and sedentary lifestyle, may tend to start bone depletion.

If young people who are their productive best fall to health problems like osteoarthritis or osteoporosis, this may put a great health burden on the country.

A review article published in the Indian Journal of Medical Research some years back had flagged off concerns over Indians’ bone health and identified a high prevalence of vitamin D deficiency as a major factor for poor bone health of Indians.

Osteoporosis is characterized by low bone mass that increases bone fragility and raises a person’s susceptibility to fracture. Osteoporotic fractures, the study said, occur commonly in both sexes in India, and may occur at a younger age than in the West.

Poor sunlight exposure, skin pigmentation and a vitamin D-deficient diet were identified as some reasons and the study highlighted the need public health measures right from childhood.

Therefore, call of the hour is to take up this issue at a serious note. This primarily entails identifying and involving all those who can play a role in bringing about a behavioral change like promoting consumption of calcium and vitamin D rich diet and exposure to sun right from childhood.

These decision makers may be fitness trainers at schools, health practitioners in hospitals, fitness counselors at healthcare centers and even parents.

Youth should be motivated and educated to adopt a healthy diet and lifestyle. Education is must, but for the health and overall development of our young generation sporting activities should be given importance in our education system. Sports not only benefits them in maintaining good health but also inculcates leadership qualities and also gives them self confidence.

Doctors could contribute by making it a point to underline the importance of physical activity, balanced diet and sun exposure, while counseling patients. When it comes to bone health, prevention is inarguably the best thing to do.

Tips on how to keep your bones healthy ?

Include adequate amount of calcium in your diet.  Milk and dairy products have plenty of it.

Pay attention to vitamin D. Body needs vitamin D to absorb calcium. Good sources of vitamin D include fish, egg yolk and fortified milk. Sunlight also contributes to the body's production of vitamin D.

Include physical activity in your daily routine. Motion is the lotion for joints; walking, jogging, and playing can help strengthen your bones and joints.

Avoid substance abuse. Don't smoke and avoid access of alcohol.

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