Aisha Tyler Sets A Healthy Example For Bones
By John Morgan, Spotlight Health
With medical adviser Stephen A. Shoop, M.D.
All actors dream of that first big break. For Aisha Tyler her biggest break
came as a guest star on Friends, playing Joey's girlfriend. But it is
a completely different break that motivates Tyler to talk about keeping your
bones healthy and strong.
"I broke my arm at the Sundance Film Festival this year," says Tyler, who recently
received rave reviews for her guest appearance on Nip/Tuck. "I've been
snowboarding since I was 15. I wasn't going very fast at all - but I came to
a really abrupt stop. Sometimes when you stop on a heel edge your forward momentum
whips you over your board. I knew I was going to fall down, but I was pretty
close to my friend so I put my hands out in front of his board so I wouldn't
cut my hands. It was a bad angle to land, and I broke the upper bone in my right
Initially Tyler did not realize she had broken her arm and continued to snowboard
for another hour until another fall painfully alerted her that something was
"I couldn't pick up my board so I knew it was broken," states Tyler, who published
her book Swerve in February. "So I walked over to the mountain doctor
and they gave me a splint - like a temporary cast. Then I went to the mountain
bar and had a few beers. I don't like to take painkillers, but I got lots of
sympathy and free drinks."
When Tyler returned home she went to a specialist who told her she didn't need
to wear a cast. Immobilizing the elbow for the typical six weeks of recovery
can cause a fused elbow, which can make getting back your range of motion back
more difficult. Tyler says she had to wear a sling and "suck it up" for six
"I'm lucky because I healed very quickly," Tyler says. "I was pain-free in
three or four weeks. My doctors said I have very strong bones."
But many Americans do not.
An estimated 10 million or more Americans have osteoporosis. This condition
is defined as low bone mass accompanied by structural deterioration of bone,
leading to weakened bones and the increased risk of spine, hip, and wrist fractures.
About 80% of people with osteoporosis are female. While women are far more at
risk for osteoporosis than men, both sexes need to remain vigilant about bone
"Everyone lays down bone until they are around 35 and then they begin losing
it," explains Robert Bassett, an orthopedic specialist and medical director
of the Hand Care Center at Hays Medical Center in Hays, Kansas. "Men start with
thicker bones than women. Since men lose bone at the same rate, their bones
tend to break later in life than women, who begin with thinner bones."
Tyler credits her excellent bone health to a combination of her genetics and
her healthy lifestyle.
"I am sure I have genetics on my side protecting my bones because I don't have
any osteoporosis in my family," Tyler states. "My parents are very nutritionally
aware. They're vegetarians. My grandmother is 80 and looks like she's 60 and
has very healthy bones. She still is exercising and active."
And as it turns out, she is also at less risk for bone-fracturing falls.
A recent Boston study showed that weight lifting into your eighties is helpful
in minimizing fracture-causing falls by promoting muscle and bone strength as
well as better coordination.
"The biggest peak for broken arms is in the elderly when they fall on the out-stretched
hand causing fractures of the distal radius or wrist," Bassett notes. "The biggest
thing people can do to minimize bone loss is weight-bearing exercise, because
it is a stimulus for bone. Any stress, like running, walking or weight lifting
causes more bone to be laid down."
Weight-bearing exercise is not only Tyler's family strategy, it's also an integral
part of her personal health regimen.
"I do weight-bearing exercise almost every day," Tyler says. "I run almost
every day. I lift weights twice a week. Even when I was hurt, I tried to straighten
my elbow every day to keep the muscles from getting weak and to maintain range
of motion. As soon as my arm was better, I started lifting weights again."
Just as snowboarding injuries can be minimized by wearing safety gear, Tyler
knows that fractures caused by osteoporosis can be greatly prevented not only
by weight-bearing exercise but also by eating a proper diet including 1500 mg
of calcium a day.
Bassett recommends taking calcium supplements with vitamin D to insure proper
absorption. "It is easy to talk about supplements but much harder to get people
to take vitamin pills."
Tyler has no problem with calcium compliance.
"I do take calcium every day because I do think about bone health," Tyler says.
"I want to be healthy and active when I am really old. I take a Tums that has
calcium, and I also have a calcium supplement that I get from Whole Foods."
Bassett also suggests that people eat lots of dark green, leafy vegetables
and dairy products to get the recommended calcium.
But Tyler says her family and husband are lactose intolerant.
"My husband is really lactose intolerant so he buys lactose-free milk," says
Tyler, who has been married for 10 years. "If he can't get that, then he'll
take one of the products that makes it okay to drink regular milk."
Tyler will need to maintain her strong bones since she plans to star in the
action movie she is currently developing. But despite making her living in the
overly body-conscious world of Hollywood, Tyler insists that her health comes
"Being thin doesn't mean you're healthy," Tyler says. "Being strong is more
important and that means keeping your bones healthy by lifting weights and doing
other weight-bearing exercises. I want women to know they need to eat well and
move their bodies. That's more important than how far your stupid hip bones
For more information about bone health, click here.
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Created: 8/18/2004  - John Morgan & Stephen A. Shoop, M.D.
Reviewed: 8/18/2004  - Donnica Moore, M.D.