Summer has come to a close and the cooler weather is creeping in. Maybe your joints and bones already sense the temperature changes. Keeping your bones and joints healthy can help prevent painful conditions such as osteoporosis and arthritis. Unfortunately, more than half of Americans over the age of 18 are affected by musculoskeletal conditions. Take a look at these other bone and joint facts from the Bone and Joint Initiative:
- One in three (33%) people over the age of 18 required medical care for a musculoskeletal condition in each of the years 2009 to 2011, a 19% increase over the last decade.
- Bone and joint conditions are the most common cause of severe long-term pain and physical disability worldwide affecting hundreds of millions of people.
- Musculoskeletal conditions include back pain, arthritis, traumatic injuries, osteoporosis, spinal deformity, and childhood conditions.
- The global prevalence of musculoskeletal conditions is predicted to increase greatly due to increasing life expectancy and changes in risk factors unless new treatments and preventive measures are found.
- Musculoskeletal conditions can lead to significant disability plus diminished productivity and quality of life. Treatment and lost wage costs associated with musculoskeletal diseases in the U.S. alone was estimated at $874 billion in 2009 to 2011 – equal to 5.73 percent of gross domestic product (GDP).
- Since 2011, when “Baby Boomers” became beneficiaries of Medicare, the economic and societal cost of bone and joint health escalated and is expected to continue for decades.
6 Ways to Keep Your Bones and Joints Healthy
Are you looking for ways to improve or preserve your bone and joint health? These tips can help.
- Perfect Your Posture
Do you have a typical 9-5 office job? Sitting or standing all day, every day, can cause joint pain. It’s important to get up and move once in a while and maintain good posture. Don’t slouch – standing and sitting straight up helps to protect your joints from your neck down to your knees. It also helps guard your hip joints and back muscles.
Need help perfecting your posture? Take a look at these articles 25 Exercises to Fix Bad Posture In a Few Minutes a Day and Posture Power: How to Correct Your Body’s Alignment (you don’t need to be a bodybuilder to find these tips useful!)
- Exercise Correctly
Exercising too much and not allowing your body to rest will bring on chronic joint pain; however, not exercising enough will likely cause you to gain weight and your muscles will weaken. Strong muscles keep surrounding ligaments strong and decreases the work your joints have to do.
The best exercises for building stronger bones include brisk walking, dancing or aerobics, and muscle strengthening exercises. But don’t forget to stretch and warm up prior to your workout! Your body needs to be warmed up to work properly and avoid injury.
- Evaluate Your Shoes
In a study reported by the National Institute of Health, regularly wearing high-heeled shoes causes musculoskeletal injury. If you wear heels, it’s a good idea to mix up the height of your heels. Heels lower than three inches are best for bone and joint health. Take a look at this article from Osteopathic.org for recommended routine stretches to perform if you’re a high-heel wearer.
Be sure to double check the fit of your tennis and athletic shoes as well. Shoes that don’t fit your feet properly can lead to muscular imbalances, opening the door to foot, knee, and hip injuries. Toes need room and there should be good arch support. Some sort of cushion, especially under the ball and heel areas of your feet, also is recommended.
- Maintain a Healthy Weight
Keeping your weight within a healthy range is the best thing you can do for your bones and joints. Your knees, hips, and back have to support some, if not all, of your body weight. WebMD says this is why so many overweight people have problems with those areas of the body. WebMD also notes that with every pound gained, a person puts four times more stress on the knees.
- Don’t Forget About Vitamins and Supplements
If you want to keep your bones and joints healthy, you’ll want to be sure you get enough vitamin D, calcium, and omega-3 acids. Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium from the foods you eat. You can get Vitamin D from sunlight and food sources such as salmon, mackerel, and tuna; eggs yolks, cheese and fortified milk; and fortified juices and cereal products. Calcium you can get from milk, yogurt, broccoli, kale, figs, and fortified foods like soy or almond milk. Omega-3 fatty acids improve bone mineral density and are particularly important for hip health. You can get omega-3 acids from fish and some nuts and seeds, such as flaxseeds.
- Don’t Smoke
According to the Arthritis Foundation, several studies have shown that smokers have lower bone mass and a higher risk of fractures than nonsmokers, and the risk increases with the number of years and cigarettes one smokes. Compared with nonsmokers, women who smoke often produce less estrogen and tend to experience menopause earlier, which may lead to increased bone loss.
It’s free to apply for both life and disability insurance, so it doesn’t hurt to try even if you already have been diagnosed with a musculoskeletal disorder.
Different Types of Bone and Joint Disorders
Bone and joint disorders fall into the category of musculoskeletal disorders. The key aspects of musculoskeletal disorders include:
- A range of conditions that can affect joints, muscles, tendons, ligaments, nerves, or other soft tissues
- May affect the spine or the upper or lower limbs
- Can result in debilitating pain, discomfort or numbness, and symptoms are frequently non-specific
- Acute symptoms can be a result of a specific cause or event (e.g. intense or prolonged physical exertion)
- Chronic symptoms often appear gradually, with initial tingling, swelling, and pain that may progress and persist
- Often associated with occupation or hobbies
Types of musculoskeletal disorders include:
- Autoimmune disorders
- Connective tissue disorders
- Reflex sympathetic dystrophy
- Bone disorders
- Foot disorders
- Soft tissue disorders
- Joint disorders
- Spinal disorders
Joints and Bones and Life Insurance – Oh My!
If you have one of these conditions and apply for life insurance, the underwriters will typically want to know the severity of the disorder, when you were first diagnosed, parts of the body that are affected, the medications you’re on and your treatment plan. Also, each individual disorder will have its own set of questions associated with it.
For example, osteoarthritis is a chronic joint disease. If someone diagnosed with osteoarthritis applies for life insurance, underwriters will want to know the following:
- Which joints are affected?
- Is an assisted device (such as a walker or cane) needed?
- How active is the applicant?
- Is there a history of falls?
- How is the applicant’s mood and outlook?
In addition to evaluating the responses given on an application, underwriters can find information via the applicant’s medical records. An applicant with osteoarthritis can be considered for a preferred risk class if the following factors are in play:
- Osteoarthritis is categorized as mild
- Pain of mild intensity, well-defined, localized, and stable
- Fully active with no physical impairment and no use of walking aids
- Use of only intermittent or continuous low dosage of NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs)
- Use of only intermittent shorter-acting opioids, no continuous opioid use
Every applicant, no matter what your health situation is, will be underwritten individually. If your neighbor has ankylosing spondylitis, applied for life insurance, and was determined to be high risk to insure and was offered Table C (which means he pays Standard prices plus 75%) this does not mean you also will be Table C if you have ankylosing spondylitis. There are many factors that go into underwriting an individual life insurance applicant.
Joints and Bones and Disability Insurance – Oh My!
In addition to life insurance, purchasing disability insurance can also be affected by bone and joint disorders. Many of these disorders can be extremely debilitating and cause you to take time off work. This is when disability insurance comes in handy; however, if you apply for disability insurance after being diagnosed with one of these disorders, you may find it difficult to be approved for coverage.
Applying for Insurance Coverage with a Musculoskeletal Disorder
When it comes to life and disability insurance carriers, no carrier underwrites in the exact same way. While one insurance company may find scoliosis relatively risky to insure, another company may be more accepting. It’s free to apply for both life and disability insurance, so it doesn’t hurt to try even if you already have been diagnosed with a musculoskeletal disorder.
Because health conditions can affect your insurance premiums quite significantly sometimes, we always encourage individuals to buy insurance sooner rather than later. As much as we’d like to, we can’t turn back the clock and we never know what life may bring.
If you have any questions regarding applying for life or disability insurance, please don’t hesitate to contact us. We’re here to help.
Photo credit to: StockSnap
About the writer
Writer, Editor, and Co-host of Quotacy's Q&A Fridays
Natasha is the content manager and editor for Quotacy. She has been in the life insurance industry since 2010 and has been making life insurance easier to understand with her writing since 2014. When not at work, she's probably studying and working toward her Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU) designation while throwing a tennis ball for her pitbull mix, Emmett, or curled up on her couch watching Netflix. If it’s football season, the Packers game will be on. Connect with her on LinkedIn.