Did You Know?
Bones don’t just grow longer; they also grow thicker – even in adults. The diameter of fingers and long bones can continue to be increased all the way through life if you have too much HGH in your body.
But What is HGH?
This is a growth hormone that is necessary to allow children’s small bones grow into adults’ larger bones. But, too much can mean adults’ bones will carry on growing – not longer, but thicker. Too little HGH in childhood means that a condition of dwarfism occurs. This is known as Pituitary Dwarfism. I’m not being politically incorrect here; this is its official medical terminology. Sometimes, when an adult has too much HGH in their body their lower jaw grows thicker, giving the appearance of an excessively large jawbone. This condition is called Acromegaly.
Sometimes babies inherit too little HGH from their parents’ genes when they are conceived and they are born with a condition that is called Achondroplastic Dwarfism. This affects the long bones because there is not enough cartilage available in the pre-bone formation and, as bone develops from cartilage, this prevents their arms and legs achieving their true length. These children, as they grow, have normal length bodies and shorter arms and legs.
Why Do We Need Bones?
Bones are needed for all sorts of reasons. We all know about bones as support for the softer parts of our bodies. I am sure lots of you know about levering the lid of a tight-fitting jar? Well, the tool you use to do the levering provides what is called a ‘fulcrum’ where the tool meets the jar. This makes it easier to put more force on a small area. Doing this makes it easier for you to apply more force with less effort.
Our bodies are clever because that is exactly what many of our bones do. As an example, you have the top part of your arm attached to your shoulder, and then you have your elbow and lower arm and, lastly your hand. Your elbow is the fulcrum and your upper arm is the lever which, when you use your muscles allows pressure to lift up your lower arm and, if you are carrying heavy shopping bags, this lever-effect enables your hands, wrists and lower arm to take the strain with less effort. The setup of this framework also gives your muscles strength because they are attached to your bones. The movement of the bones alters the shape of your muscles and increases pressure placed on them. This is a really good idea because, without it, we would not be able to move about, or carrying on with normal everyday living.
It’s not just that though?
No, it’s not. Did you know that your bones are hollow? This makes your bony framework much lighter and easy to move about than if your bones were solid.
However, it is much more important to have hollow bones than just that. In fact, without hollow bones, you would not be able to breath! The insides of your bones are not empty spaces – they are a power house of cell-building and the place where your blood cells are made.
Your red blood cells carry oxygen around your body, obtaining oxygen from your lungs and spreading this oxygen throughout every cell in your body. White cells are very important as well as they fight infection. There are lots of different kinds of white blood cells, each one having different jobs to do. Another kind of blood cell that is made inside the hollow of your bones is the platelets. These are cell fragments really, but they join up with something else to make sticky glue that helps your blood to clot and, when you cut yourself, help to form a scab to prevent infection getting in and your fluids getting out.
Other cells that are found inside the hollow bones are fat cells and the actual bone cells. Bones are also important because they help essential chemicals get used by the body. Nearly all bone is made out of calcium – in fact, 99% is calcium.
Vitamins are Also Important for Growth
Vitamins are very important for growth, especially Vitamin D which enables more calcium from your intestine to be taken up by your body and used to make bone. In children, if there is not enough Vitamin D then children develop rickets which makes children’s legs looked bowed. Not enough Vitamin D in adults can cause the bones to weaken.
Collagen is the forerunner to the development of connective tissue which is needed to bind bones and muscles together. In order for your body to be able to make collagen, you need to have enough Vitamin C or Ascorbic Acid in your body. Without enough Vitamin C in your body you would be very ill indeed, and a disease, known as scurvy, would develop. You also need enough Vitamin A and Vitamin B12 in your body to ensure your bones develop properly. However, as with most vitamins, if you have too much that is just as bad. Too much Vitamin A can cause your body to grow too much bone so that it thickens in all the wrong places.
Hormones are Also Important for Growth
There are lots of different hormones in your body and they really do have important jobs to do – so important, in fact, that you could not stay alive without the actions of hormones to regulate all the different things your body is able to do. Most hormones work in pairs, or groups, to carry out a job because they work better that way. Often, when they are working in pairs, they have opposite reactions and are described as being antagonistic.
An example of antagonistic hormones is parathyroid hormone [PTH] and Calcitonin. These two hormones regulate the contents within the blood stream. The reason why these two hormones are important for growth is because of the way bone is able to store calcium and release it into the blood when your body needs to use more calcium for other things. It is the PTH which arranges with a special kind of bone cell to release the calcium from the bones. When enough calcium is available for the body to use and it does not need any more, the Calcitonin ‘turns off’ the stream of calcium that the bone cell is allowing to leave your bones. This allows the calcium in your bones to reduce – there always has to be a balance of the right amount of calcium flowing through your blood stream.
Now, we have all heard of steroids. Your body makes its own steroids: this is what testosterone and oestrogen are. These two hormones also encourage your body to increase the amount of calcium in your bones. This is why you sometimes find bones weakening in the elderly as their bodies make less and less of the steroid hormones during the aging process and can lead to osteoporosis, a condition in which calcium is actually leached out from the bones, leaving a lacy framework of weakened bone cells and depleted calcium.
Do All Ageing People Suffer Bone Loss?
No, not all but there are a number of risk factors which can lead to bone loss. Some of these you can do something about and aim to prevent it. Unfortunately, there are some things that can happen anyway – genetics being one of them. As you get older, your body makes less oestrogen, testosterone and HGH.
People with small frames and sedentary lifestyles can find themselves at risk from osteoporosis in later life. Sufficient calcium in the diet will help, although there is a recommended daily amount, above which you can do more harm to yourself than good. What you may not know, however, is that, if you take calcium supplements, you also need to take a daily dose of Vitamin D in its active form. Vitamin D comes in different forms – the easiest way is simply to go outside for a daily walk in the open air because your body can absorb the effects of sunlight on your skin and, inside your body, change it into Vitamin D which your body can use. That is an active form of Vitamin D. You can also take Vitamin D supplements.
Be very careful not to take too much calcium, in supplements or any other way. Too much is very bad for you and can result in arteriosclerosis which, in everyday talk, is furry arteries – and that’s not good for your heart!