Hip Fracture

Your Bones!

Your Bones!

Beautiful bones, our structure, our frame. But those beautiful bones may be at risk of breaking if you are one of us who flew during the years when cigarette smoke was a near constant factor in aircraft cabins.

Osteoporosis (porous bones) leads to an increase risk of bone fractures. Beyond smoke exposure, individuals with a small frame (exacerbated by those horrid weight checks) may have an added risk of osteoporotic bone fractures.

Both lifestyle and medical options can help to maintain bone mass and indeed to rebuild those very necessary bones. For current and former flight attendants, here are tips that may help in keeping your bones strong.

  • Talk to your health care provider about bone health. Make sure to discuss your occupational exposure to cigarette smoke and low body weight.
  • Get a dexa-scan at least every two years.
  • Vitamin D, actually a hormone, plays a crucial role in protecting and rebuilding bone. The Endocrine Society’s spokesperson, Dr. Michael Holick reported new guidelines for Vitamin D intake including that, a “tolerable upper limit of Vitamin D intake for everyone over 8 years of age is 4000 I.U.” Check your Vitamin D levels annually, best in winter. The Endocrine Society recommends that a healthy individual should maintain a level between 30 and 60 ng/mL. www.medscape.com article
    http://jcem.endojournals.org
  •  Mineral intake is crucial in staving off bone fractures. Calcium, magnesium and zinc are ALL required for healthy bones (1). Vitamin K may also play a key role. Supplements with balanced levels of these and other key vitamins and minerals are available at most stores that sell vitamins. http://www.jacn.org/content/19/6/715.long#sec-12
  • The ratio of fatty acids in your diets seems to matter. Relative to Omega -6 fatty acids, an increased intake of Omega 3 fatty acids (the good fats found in cold water-fish: salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines and herring) is associated with bone protection. Both Omega-3 & -6 can be found in other foods including in some cheeses like feta, especially from grass fed goats! http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/omega-3-000316.htm
  • Weight bearing and resistance exercise are crucial in maintaining or regaining bone mass. Proficiency and practice of Tai Chi or QiGong reduce stress and are reportedly protective against bone loss. Exercise in general, and Tai Chi and QiGong in particular, are associated with increased strength and balance and are protective against falls.
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17080541
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21378497
  • Be moderate in consumption of caffeine, salt and alcoholic beverages. High consumption is associated with weaker bones.
  •  Stay attentive to the state of your bones. Bone fractures are not just a matter of pain and inconvenience. They can be debilitating.

Osteoporosis is not inevitable. Take care of those beautiful bones!

Safe travels.
By Mardi Crane-Godreau, Ph.D.
Mardi Crane-Godreau was a Pan Am Flight Attendant from 1967 to 1985. She is now a faculty member at Dartmouth Medical School.

Kathleen Cheney

Flight Attendants Making a Difference: The Kathie Cheney Story

Flight Attendants Making a Difference: The Kathie Cheney Story

In this compelling video produced by the Georgia Alliance for Tobacco Prevention, former flight attendant Kathie Cheney describes her experience on smoke-filled flights, her diagnosis with “smokers’ throat” and subsequent surgery.

Associations between respiratory illnesses and secondhand smoke exposure in flight attendants: A cross-sectional analysis of the Flight Attendant Medical Research Institute Survey

Background:Secondhand tobacco smoke (SHS) is associated with increased risk of respiratory illness, cancer, and cardiovascular disease. Prior to smoking bans on airlines in the late 1980s, flight attendants were exposed to a significant amount of SHS. In the present study, we examine associations between flight attendant SHS exposure and development of respiratory illnesses and cardiovascular disease.

Methods:
Between December 2006 and October 2010, three hundred sixty-two flight attendants completed an online questionnaire with information regarding experience as a flight attendant, medical history, smoking history, and SHS exposure. Rates of illnesses in flight attendants were compared with an age and smoking history matched population sample from NHANES 2005-2006. Logistic regression analysis was used to examine the association of reported medical conditions and pre-ban years of exposure.

Results:
Compared with the sample from NHANES 2005-2006, flight attendants had increased prevalence of chronic bronchitis (11.7% vs. 7.2%, p < 0.05), emphysema/COPD (3.2% vs. 0.9%, p < 0.03), and sinus problems (31.5% vs. 20.9%, p < 0.002), despite a lower prevalence of medical illnesses including high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, heart failure, cancer, and thyroid disease. Amongst flight attendants who reported never smoking over their lifetimes, there was not a significant association between years of service as a flight attendant in the pre-smoking ban era and illnesses. However, in this same group, there was a significantly increased risk of daily symptoms (vs. no symptoms) of nasal congestion, throat, or eye irritation per 10-year increase of years of service as a flight attendant prior to the smoking ban (OR 2.14, 95% CI 1.41 - 3.24). Conclusions: Flight attendants experience increased rates of respiratory illnesses compared to a population sample. The frequency of symptoms of nasal congestion, throat or eye irritation is associated with occupational SHS exposure in the pre-smoking ban era.

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