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Longevity Through Injury Reduction

Samuel G Oltman, ND, RMSK

The only way to Keep Moving is to Keep Moving. Maintaining physical activity is the single most important modifiable risk factor for longevity. This is why I do what I do– helping to keep my patients active and pain free is the most important factor in promoting physical, mental, and emotional health. There are three principles I believe are the most crucial when considering longevity, which is what we all want: not just to live a long life, but to live a long, happy, healthy life.

1. Avoiding Long Sedentary Periods

Continuity in fitness becomes increasingly important as we age. Sitting out for 6 months from any exercise, for any reason, is an unacceptable risk to longevity.

A tragic truth of being human is that we de-condition rapidly in the absence of challenge. We need constant motion to keep our bodies (and minds) adapting and growing stronger. Being sedentary for extended stretches is detrimental to every system of our body and grows more impactful as we age. The regressions we experience during long stretches of inactivity become increasingly irreversible. Maintaining muscle mass is the most important task for our bodies as we age.

Hip fractures are a sobering example of how an injury can completely derail otherwise healthy people. The statistics are startling: 20% of people that fracture their hip die within a year; 60% of hip fracture patients develop significant muscle loss (“sarcopenia”); up to 90% of those with hip fractures lose a physical functionality level that never returns; and about half of people develop worsening cognitive deficits within a year.

While hip fractures are the more severe example, any injury that prevents you from being regularly physically active presents the same challenge: The injury itself can be debilitating temporarily but it’s the inactivity that really hurts health and longevity. If you sprain your ankle, it’s not the end of the world, but if you are then less active for the next 6-12 months and gain 20 pounds, even after the ankle no longer bothers you, the hole you’ve dug for yourself is significant. It is this we must fight against.

2. Modifying Activity Risk

Adapting to how your body changes with age can play a huge role in injury risk. As we get older, our ability to heal declines. Avoiding activities where injury risk is high is easy prevention. But so many of us love certain activities and want to do them through life, like skiing, golfing, or surfing. With skiing, for example, you can simply reduce risk within the activity: no airborne stuff, reduced speed through trees, etc. Just have fun, skip the riskiest maneuvers.

Then there’s volume reduction: if you love running, an easy way to reduce running injury risk is to alter length or speed of runs while keeping weekly volume the same (multiple smaller runs instead of a few long ones). Or, running on trails or tracks instead of concrete.

We are always changing and we need to adapt our activity as we age to reduce injury risk while continuing to be active and healthy. Being in denial about pain, injuries, and aging can often backfire: you end up with an injury or surgery that forces you to be sedentary for 6-12+ months and your fitness level never gets back to where it was previously.

Reducing injury risk is about creating conditions where you avoid the catastrophic setback. Altering activity does not mean “do less” or “you’re too old’. It just means that we all change and the wise adapt to keep moving forward.

3. Addressing Small Issues Early

Being told “wait until it’s so bad that you’re ready for surgery” is poor advice: in the process of waiting for a joint to degenerate so that you can get it replaced, people become more sedentary, gain weight, lose function, and become worse prospects for surgical recovery, taking years off their life.

Treating injuries and degeneration early is the superior strategy. Waiting to treat issues that are already altering your physical activity level is a dangerous form of procrastination. Physical activity can decline slowly and imperceptibly until that knee pain that was “annoying” is now preventing you from walking the dog. Prevention is easier than treatment. Taking minor pain and dysfunction seriously is the wise way to take the long view of your life and what your goals are for the next decade and beyond.

Even if you need a joint replacement eventually, if you can treat an area to reduce pain and stay active in the meantime, it’s a win from a longevity perspective. This is where PRP and MFAT can offer so much value: regardless of whether you avoid surgery altogether, they can both reduce pain and increase function, allowing you to reap the longevity benefits of exercise without a large interruption.

With these three concepts in mind, think about how you can alter your routine or restart your routine to set yourself up for the best possible outcome. Everything outlined above is in your control– you can change it. You can continue to do the things you love and engage in the activities that make you feel alive, just adapt and manage the trade-off between present fulfillment and future function.

Schedule with us today to get personalized treatment recommendations and Keep Moving with Cascade Regenerative Medicine.



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