Muscle Support

Natural, safe muscle support to keep your body fit and strong for life. The NorthStar blog on muscle support brings you the latest discoveries and breakthroughs to help you maintain optimal muscle health.

  1. How to Prevent Falls: 3 Easy Steps to Staying Injury-Free

    How to Avoid FallsChildren fall every day. Sometimes, it seems like they’re made of rubber. They fall down, scrape a knee or an elbow, jump right back up again, and keep moving.

    But it’s no longer easy…as you age, things change.

    Falls becoming a big deal – perhaps even one of your biggest fears – and learning how to prevent a fall becomes more important than ever.

    Why Preventing Falls is So Important

    1 in 3 adults over the age of 65 fall every year.

    In fact, falls are the number 1 cause of both fatal and non-fatal injuries in people over the age of 65. But how bad can a non-fatal fall really be?

    Bad enough that 2 million people require treatment in an emergency room because of a fall every year.

    More than 90% of hip fractures are caused by falls.

    Of people who take a fall, only 25% will recover fully. 40% will have to be admitted into a nursing home or facility. 50% will need to use a cane or walker, as a result of the fall. And 20% of people who fall will die within a year.

    I don’t mean to scare you – and as you’ll see in the rest of this article, there are a few simple ways to avoid falling.

    So, now that I have your attention, let’s look at ways to prevent falls, because doing so is easy.

    Enlist Your Doctor’s Help in Avoiding Falls

    One of the most important ways to prevent a fall is to talk to your doctor.

    Understand what short-term and chronic health conditions can do to your balance and stability.

    Some medications can make you dizzy, as well. So ask what the side effects of any new prescriptions or supplements are.

    Make sure you’re getting the right vitamins and minerals, in the right amounts, to keep your bones and muscles strong.

    Check in with him about your calcium and vitamin D levels, especially.

    Getting more vitamin D can be easy, especially if you’re taking supplements high in this bone-protecting nutrient NorthStar Nutritionals has several vitamin D supplements, which you can find right here.

    However, less than half of people over age 65 talk to their doctors about falling. Don’t be one of those people.

    Your doctor would much rather talk to you about a fall before it has happened, rather than visiting you in the hospital afterwards.

    How to Make Your House a Safe, Fall-Free Zone

    This one is a little time consuming, but it is worth it in the long run.

    Start with the floors. Make sure that all rugs and carpets are secure with double-sided tape, so that they don’t pop up, catch your foot, and throw you off balance.

    You may even want to consider removing rugs, and going with carpets or hardwood flooring.

    Also, try to keep your floors clear of clutter. This includes shoes, cables, plants, anything that might catch a foot or a toe.

    Moving to cabinets and storage, relocate things you use every day, like glasses, plates and hobby supplies, to shelves where you can reach them without a stepstool. Even if you are steady on a stepstool now, that just means it’s a good time to be thinking about the future.

    In the bathroom and on the stairs, install handles, bannisters, and grip bars. You want to be sure you have something to hold onto to help you balance, and grab onto should you slip. Again, even if you don’t need them yet, they are easier to install when you’re still active and strong!

    Why Staying Active Will Actually Help You Avoid Falls

    There’s this cycle that happens for many people: you’re afraid you’ll fall if you’re too active, so you slow down, stop doing so much. Only that makes you weaker, and less stable, which makes you more likely to fall.

    So – break the cycle…stay active.

    Keep doing what you love, because every step, every movement, every activity counts. From dancing to golf to gardening, it all helps you prevent a fall.

    Whatever you’re already doing, consider starting some strength training as well. Doing resistance training 2-3 days per week helps keep bones strong.

    And strong bones don’t break as easily. It doesn't have to be heavy weights. 1 or 2 pounds in each hand as you go for a walk around the block is all it takes.

    Add balance exercises 2-3 days per week, too, and you’ll be ahead of the game. When you’re doing dishes, or even watching TV., stand on one foot for 30 seconds, then switch feet.

    Or look into a yoga or tai chi class at your local community center or gym. Balance and flexibility give you stability – and that’s the easiest way to prevent falls.

    These may seem like very small ways to prevent falls, but they offer big rewards. You’re vibrant, healthy, and strong. Make sure you stay that way. Learn how to prevent falls, and start taking those steps now.

  2. Why Exercise for Seniors is Vital to Staying Independent

    Senior ExerciseYou get plenty of exercise going up and down stairs, playing with the grandchildren, at the grocery store, or in the garden.

    Surely you don’t need any more than that, right?

    That all counts as exercise for seniors, doesn't it?

    After all, it’s difficult enough to keep up with everything going on in your life. And now you’re expected to save some of your energy for exercise?

    Well, not so fast.

    Sure. All of those are considered physical activities, and they are very important. Keep doing them!

    But they aren't exercise. And to stay your healthiest, you need both.

    First, you should know…

    Why Should I Exercise?

    Well, as you’ll see in this article, the benefits of even just moderate exercise are abundant.

    However, you might think that getting older means not being able to be as active. You think it’s inevitable that as you stiffen up and stop resting well, you simply can’t keep up.

    The truth, though, is very different. These aren't the results of getting older. These are the results of getting enough exercise.

    Even moderate exercise can increase and maintain a person’s mental capacity, decrease rates of hospitalization caused by age and age-related diseases, and decrease the risk of falling.

    In as little as just 10 minutes of exercise a day, or walking 5 days a week, you can stay active, and living independently.

    So, now that you’re convinced to add 10 minutes of exercise a day, you’re probably wondering what counts as exercise?

    The Difference Between Exercise and Physical Activity

    To start, physical activities are those things you do every day. Playing with your grandkids. Doing laundry. Walking up and down the stairs. Carrying your groceries.

    You know those are important, because they are the things that keep you independent and vibrant.

    And some of these simple movements give you huge benefits. Depending on how strenuous your daily schedule is, you might be on the verge of getting a full exercise simply through your physical activities.

    However, to be sure, you should always incorporate some exercise into your routine.

    Exercise, is a planned, deliberate activity with the goal of improving fitness or overall health. Think about it this way – exercise gives you the ability to keep up with the physical activities you enjoy. Making them not just possible, but easy, and fun.

    And these physical activities are what will allow you to stay independent as you grow older. Which, beyond simply being healthy, is why exercise is so important in the first place.

    Follow the “4 Pillars” of Exercise

    A well-rounded exercise plan for seniors should include 4 components…

    • Light cardio,
    • Strength-building
    • Flexibility,
    • And balance

    Each piece provides a different health benefit, so each is important for a well-rounded exercise routine.

    Light cardio – These are the workouts that get your heart rate and your breathing up, like walking, swimming, or dancing. It’s okay if you feel a little short of breath, but you should always be able to carry on a conversation. Cardio exercise helps build your endurance, strengthen your heart and lungs, and reduce how quickly you tire out. A strong cardio system means you can keep doing what you love to do longer. And you don’t have to start with an hour long aerobics class or try to walk 5 miles. Match your cardio routine to your fitness level. The key is to stick with it. Because even if you just start with a 5-10 minute walk around the block, you’ll get stronger and healthier every day.

    Strength-building – Keeping your strength up is key to being able to carry your groceries, lift your grandbaby, or swing a gold club – and even when just standing up from the sofa. Plus, weight training helps fight back against osteoporosis, so your bones stay strong right along with your muscles. Resistance bands or light weights are a great way to start building your muscle strength. And you don’t have to worry about bulking up or getting too big, because that just doesn’t happen accidentally. What I’m talking about is getting lean, strong muscles that keep you walking, dancing, able to open that jar without help, and get around your house without worry.

    Flexibility – When talking about exercise for seniors, people often forget about flexibility. There’s a myth out there that says you have to stiffen up as you get older. But it’s just that – a myth. And like with balance, even if you have started getting stiff, it’s never too late to start regaining your range of motion. The more flexible you are, the easier it is to do little things like reach the top shelf, tie your shoes, or pick something up once it’s been dropped. Yoga and tai chi are great for flexibility as well. Or you can just work some gentle stretches into your day.

    Balance – As you age, you may become more concerned about falling. That’s where balance exercises for seniors can literally be life-changing. Good balance is what keeps you from slipping when you get in or out of the shower, or the car. Balance keeps you safe, and improves your posture. And it’s never too late to start working on your balance, even if you’ve started to get a little wobbly. Yoga and tai chi can both be modified to work for any fitness level. Many gyms, senior centers, and YMCAs offer specific exercise classes for seniors. But you can start by standing on one foot, hold it for 30 seconds, and repeat on the other side. Hold onto a chair until you’ve built your balance up enough to stand on your own.

    Make Your Own Plan

    You don’t have to compete with anyone. You have nothing to prove to anyone. Just because you can’t run a mile or do 50 pushups doesn’t mean you shouldn’t even start. The important thing is to do what works for you so you can be your best.

    Find time – even just 5-10 minutes – to exercise, not just be active. Talk to your doctor and come up with an exercise routine that will challenge you, but work with your current fitness level, too.

    Aim for about 2.5 hours a week of cardio, with 2-3 days of strength, balance, and flexibility exercises for seniors worked in there as well.

    Whatever your age, whatever your fitness level, you can start getting healthier today.

  3. 4 Pain Problems and 12 Pain Relief Solutions

    Senior couple on cycle ride In talking with customers who are looking for pain relief solutions, it seems that most types of pain fall into one of 4 categories --  fibromyalgia, joint pain, migraines, and sore muscles. And because these are the issues you care about, they are the issues we care about. You gave us 4 painful concerns, so we came up with 3 pain relief solutions for each one!

    How Can I Get Fibromyalgia Relief?

    So little is understood about fibromyalgia, it’s hard to know exactly why something helps the pain. Still, many patients say these steps can help with pain relief…
    1. Light exercise keeps the body moving, and often eases the pain. Some slow walking, swimming, even a few stretches or gentle yoga have been reported to help.
    2. Lack of sleep due to pain can make you hurt worse – which keeps you up at night. Break the cycle with a melatonin supplement, and get a good night’s sleep.
    3. Sometimes, the pain requires a prescription. Find a doctor who will listen to you and respect you and your body.

    What Makes Joints Stop Hurting?

    Whether it’s arthritis, or just getting older, joint pain can be restrictive. Even if we feel up to moving, our bodies won’t always let us. Not only can it be painful, it can be disheartening. Here are some pain relief solutions that may help…
    1. Studies have shown topical pain relievers can be effective against joint pain, especially those with capsaicin or cayenne listed as an active ingredient.
    2. Glucosamine has been shown to ease joint pain, especially in cases not directly involving arthritis. Many people find it works best in conjunction with chondroitin.
    3. The ancient art of acupuncture is frequently used as an alternative, or complementary, medicine when dealing with joint pain. While many mainstream doctors are still skeptical, practitioners swear by its effects.

    How Can I Make A Migraine Go Away?

    Anyone who has ever had a migraine knows just how debilitating it can be. When one hits, all you want is for it to be over.
    1. Oral pain relievers seem to be the best pain relief solution for severe headaches. Most sufferers look for an over-the-counter drug that includes caffeine as an ingredient.
    2. Some people have found relief without medicine at all. If you can’t take medicine, or don’t have access to it, try a cold compress over your eyes and/or at the hairline on the back of your neck. For the most effective pain relief, stay away from light and loud noises, too.
    3. For some, only a prescription strength medication is strong enough to address their pain. In this case, speak with your doctor. Many medications can even prevent the onset of a migraine.

    What Can I Do For Sore Muscles?

    Sometimes, it’s a temporary situation. Sometimes, it’s a chronic condition. Either way, our muscles are not supposed to feel like this!
    1. This is another time when a topical pain reliever can be a helpful pain relief solution. Some products use capsaicin; some use menthol. Some products even offer both!
    2. It’s also a time when an oral pain reliever might work. Many over the counter medications, including ibuprofen and naproxen, claim to target sore muscles.
    3. Therapeutic massage can offer relief and relaxation, all in about an hour. Be sure to find a licensed massage therapist for the best results.
    Unfortunately, there are no guarantees that any of these pain relief solutions will work on your specific pain. And be sure to talk to you doctor or health care provider before starting a new treatment, especially for a chronic condition. But don’t give up and don’t get discouraged. There are ways to relieve or manage your pain. And we’re right here with you, every step of the way.
  4. Two secrets to build stronger bones without Prolia side effects

    Last year I told you about a risky new osteoporosis drug called Prolia. The company that makes Prolia, Amgen pharmaceuticals, says the drug is much safer than older bone drugs on the market, such as Boniva, with Prolia side effects being less dangerous than the side effects of Boniva. These older drugs work by interrupting the cycle of bone turnover. Sure -- they stop you from losing bone, so your bone density tests initially look great. But the drugs also stop you from growing new bone. So over time, your bones could become brittle and you become more prone to fractures. In fact, women who take high doses of these older bone drugs (called bisphosphonates) could run an increased risk of developing atypical hip fractures. They could also run an increased risk of getting osteonecrosis (or bone death of the jaw) and it has even been linked to esophageal cancer. Amgen deliberately tried to stand apart from bisphosphonates in its marketing materials. Instead of hiring a celebrity like Sally Field, Amgen talked about "women like you" in its marketing. The company says Prolia is different. But women aren't buying it...literally. Sales out of the gate for Prolia, which debuted in 2010, were sluggish. But Amgen just hit pay dirt. They figured out a new way to increase their market share: sell it to cancer patients!

    Amgen turns tragedy into sales payday

    You see, chemotherapy wreaks havoc on your entire body. In fact, certain kinds of chemotherapy used to treat prostate cancer and breast cancer can disrupt hormonal function. This puts already sick patients at risk for bone fractures. To combat the loss of bone during chemotherapy, Amgen suggested that oncologists try using Prolia on cancer patients. And in September, Amgen actually became the first drug approved to prevent bone loss in prostate and breast cancer patients. This sweeping approval substantially increases the market share for Prolia. Experts estimate sales for the drug (given by injection) will now reach more than $1 billion. But -- no matter how happy the women appear in the TV ads -- I still have concerns about Prolia side effects. The active ingredient in Prolia -- called denosumab -- blocks a protein that activates osteoclasts. Osteoclasts serve an important role in the body. They destroy bone. Sure, destroying bone may not sound like a good thing, but in this case it is. The key is the type of bone. Healthy bones are in constant flux. Your body breaks down old bone and sends it into your bloodstream. Then you absorb new calcium out of your blood stream to build new bone. But Prolia -- just like the old bisphosphonates -- interrupts this natural cycle. It blocks bone from breaking down. So technically, you never lose bone density. But it also appears to block the building of new bone. And that could make for brittle bones. And brittle bones fracture easily. Is it any surprise, then, that the FDA has already warned physicians to be on the lookout for increased fractures in women taking Prolia (not to mention the small jaw decay problem the FDA has also warned us about)! Now, here's the good news I promised you... A new study of post-menopausal women found that you can definitely increase your bone mass without taking harmful drugs! In fact, two natural secrets may even work better than drugs!

    Build stronger bones without drugs

    For this new study, researcher recruited 79 sedentary post-menopausal women. They divided the women into four groups. The first group of women walked or jogged three times a week. The second group of women took 1,000 mg of omega-3 fatty acids each day. The third group exercised and took the omega-3s. And the fourth group -- the control group -- did nothing differently. They didn't exercise or take any new supplements. After 24 weeks, the researchers gave bone density tests to all the women. The women who exercised and took omega-3s had a clear advantage! In fact, after just 24 weeks, these women increased BMD in their lower spine up 15 percent. Plus, they increased the density of their femurs (thigh bone) by 19 percent! These are HUGE gains. In fact, Amgen published the latest round of research on Prolia and possible Prolia side effects in March of this year (2011). According to this data, women treated with Prolia for five continuous years (five YEARS!) improved bone density on average by 13.7 in the spine and by just seven percent in the hip. So you tell me... Would you rather take a drug for five years and risk jaw bone death...or would you rather exercise three times a week and take your omega-3s? The answer's pretty darn clear to me. It's quite easy to get 1,000 mg of omega-3s in fish oil tablets. Just make sure to add a natural vitamin E capsule along with your fish oil. The natural vitamin E will help zap any free radicals generated by the fish oil.
  5. Treat Restless Leg Syndrome without drugs

    The FDA recently approved a new drug in the treatment of Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS). Now, I know this condition tortures many older adults. It often strikes at night, just when you‘re ready to hit the sheets. You can‘t fall asleep, however, because your legs feel jittery. The only thing that makes you feel better is to get up and move around. It‘s a puzzling condition, without a doubt. But before you resort to a drug that may carry a warning of increased suicide risk, explore your options. I‘ve had a lot of luck treating RLS with a mix of calcium and magnesium. Magnesium, as you‘ll recall, is a relaxant. So theoretically, that‘s why it helps lessen the creepy-crawly feeling in your legs. Go with a ratio of 2:1 of calcium to magnesium. Start with 1,000 mg of calcium to 500 mg of magnesium for a few days. If this doesn‘t work, double the dosage. If you go too high, you may experience somewhat looser stools and should cut back. Also -- make sure to use capsules. Your body tends to absorb these better than hard tablets.
  6. Why the FDA’s latest move on fluoride is a red herring

    Did you know that for the past 70 years you’ve been drinking fluoride, one of the most toxic chemicals found in nature? You can’t smell it…you can’t taste it…and you probably have long-since forgotten that this dangerous substance was ever added to our water supply. But the fact is that the EPA started adding this toxic element to public drinking water in the 1940s. Ironically, the goal was to protect children. This stuff is the equivalent of ingestible gasoline. In fact, it’s probably even far worse than petrol. Yet for all these years, it’s been heralded as “good for you.” Now, the FDA has finally decided to limit the amount of this “gasoline” they’re putting in our water, because of noticeable side effects. Many in the health community will praise this move by the FDA. But not me. Why? Well, in my book, the FDA’s new move is just a red herring. It distracts us from the real problem…primarily, that this “gasoline” doesn’t belong in our water at all.

    Seriously, gasoline doesn’t belong in our water!

    Of course, I’m talking about fluoride. You see, fluoride is a waste product of aluminum mining. In fact, any guesses on who funded the research back in the ’40s that convinced us we all needed fluoride for our teeth? Yep, you got it: The aluminum mining industry. Those captains of industry weren’t concerned about cavities. They wanted to make a quick penny by selling their aluminum by-products. And 70 years later, we’re all still buying their toxic leftovers.

    Dead rodents with clean teeth…

    Here’s another little-known fact about fluoride: It’s rat poison. Just go to any hardware store and check it out. Most brands of rat poison (the old-fashioned kind with the skull and crossbones on the box) contain sodium fluoride. What’s it doing in rat poison? Well, it’s not to prevent the rats from getting cavities…I can tell you that much. Nope, scientists classify fluoride as the most toxic chemical found in nature, second only to arsenic. (See, you would have been better off with gasoline, not fluoride, added to your water!) Fortunately, fluoride won’t kill a human being right away. It’s considered an “accumulative poison” that gradually builds up in your system. Dental fluorosis (those discolored patches on your teeth that the FDA is so concerned about) is usually the first sign of toxicity. But the side effects become much more serious as your exposure increases. That’s because once inside the body, fluoride tends to collect in areas with lots of calcium, such as your teeth…and your bones. In fact, in 1990, the New England Journal of Medicine carried a report that too much fluoride exposure increased “skeletal fragility” and lowered bone density in women with osteoporosis. But even that’s just the tip of the iceberg… Excessive fluoride exposure has also been linked to:
    • Neurotoxicity
    • Genetic damage
    • Tumors
    • Atopic dermatitis
    • Eczema
    • Gastro-intestinal problems
    • Headaches
    • Immune system disruptions
    • Loss of collagen (a protein critical to skin, muscle, tissue, ligaments and bone health)
    • Arthritis
    • Learning problems
    • Thyroid disorders
    Fluoride in your water supply is serious stuff, folks. It even affects unborn babies. In fact, two years ago, U.S. researchers looked at rural communities in upstate New York. They discovered that women who live in towns with fluorinated water deliver premature babies much more often than do women who live in towns without fluoride. So while it’s great that the FDA wants to limit the gasoline -- er, fluoride -- in your water…I wouldn’t start drinking straight from the tap any time soon.

    So how do you get rid of it?

    There are two ways to get rid of the fluoride in your drinking water. And neither one is very simple, I’m afraid. Your first option is to buy bottled water from the grocery store. But you have to be careful. Obviously, you want to avoid any brand that contains nothing more than bottled tap water. That’s because it probably contains as much fluoride as water straight from your tap…only it’s more expensive. If you’re really curious, you can contact the manufacturer to find out exactly how much fluoride your bottled water contains. Secondly, skip anything that calls itself “pure” water. You see, pure H20 is not normal in nature. All natural sources of water contain some “impurities.” Spring water contains natural minerals and electrolytes that your body needs. But when you distill or completely purify water, you remove these natural elements. I call this “soft” water or mineral-free water. And your body has a heck of a time processing this kind of water. In fact, there is significant evidence that drinking “soft” water increases your risk of cardiovascular disease or stroke. I remember, as a child, seeing warnings on bottles of distilled water for steam irons: “Not for internal use.” The only kind of bottled water I consider safe is high-quality spring water, drawn from a deep natural spring. Check the bottle’s label to see how many minerals the spring water contains. Pick the brand with the most magnesium. That’s your best bet…though it won’t be cheap. Your second option is to install a high-quality water filter. Lots of companies will dazzle you with a long list of chemicals their filters remove. But ask them if their filter removes fluoride.That’s the million-dollar question. If it does, you’ve got a winner on your hands. Lastly, aside from your drinking water, make sure to use fluoride-free toothpaste and mouthwashes. They are widely available now, even at big-name stores. Also, skip the fluoride rinse at your next visit to the dentist.
  7. Studies suggest a link between vitamin C and bone mass

    Vitamin C Helps Prevent Bone Loss in Men We all know that vitamin C is perhaps the world‘s greatest multi-tasker. It defends us against a slew of proven enemies: from the common cold, to cancer (intravenously), to heart disease. Now there‘s new evidence that vitamin C can even help prevent loss of bone mass in men. Over a four-year period, researchers at Tufts University studied the bone density of men and women 75 years and older who take anywhere from no vitamin C to 520 milligrams daily. They found that men with the highest levels of vitamin C maintained their bone density. While men with lowest levels of vitamin C experienced bone density loss. (Interestingly, high vitamin C intake seemed to provide some protection for women, but it wasn‘t ‘statistically significant.‘ Maybe more research here is needed.) The RDA of vitamin C is laughable (and surely negligent) at 90 mg per day for men and 75 mg for women. In my opinion, everyone over the age of 10 should get at least 1,000 mg of vitamin C twice a day. Natural sources include: citrus fruits, broccoli - red peppers, brussel sprouts, parsley, and strawberries. Very few ‘multi‘ vitamins contain enough of it, however. Your best bet is to find 1,000 mg capsules and take one twice a day at a minimum. Don‘t take them all at once. And stay away from any so-called ‘time release‘ capsules. Vitamin C only stays in your system for a few hours, so ‘time release‘ is really a waste. (There are some rare exceptions, so check with your health provider to make sure this is a safe quantity for you.)

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