When our post, Walk Georgia for Better Bone Health hit the blog, I got an email from Commissioner Susan Whiddon. She asked, “Are you still taking trail suggestions? We need some information on the website about South Georgia.”
I wrote back, “You’re right. We do need some information on the website about South Georgia. Whatcha got?”
My knowledge of anything south of I-20 is sketchy at best. I grew up in Gainesville, Georgia and have traveled all over the North Georgia Mountains from Cloudland Canyon to Rabun Bald. Now I live in Marietta and know my way around the Metro Atlanta area pretty well. Unfortunately, most of my traveling in South Georgia has been on I-75. We try to venture out a little on our way back and forth to Florida, but we rarely stray far from the interstate. Fortunately, Susan was kind enough to fill in the gaps for me.
As you know by now, May is National Osteoporosis Month, and the Georgia Commission on Women has been focusing our internet energy on awareness of risk factors and prevention strategies for this disease that affects 4.5 million women over age 50 nationwide. Leading a healthy lifestyle that includes a diet rich in calcium and vitamin D is important, and regular weight bearing exercise like walking is key as well. What follows are Susan’s suggestions for great places to walk down in her neck of the woods.
Reed Bingham State Park in Adel, Georgia comes highly recommended. There are seven trails to choose from ranging from boardwalks over the bottomlands to treks through the surrounding forest. One trail takes you to a high river bluff overlooking the Little River. Wildlife abounds—gopher turtles, alligators, and vultures, oh my!—and it sounds like a great place to visit if birdwatching is your thing. Susan is particularly fond of this park. She says:
Reed Bingham is a favorite of mine. It is so peaceful with the wooden boardwalks through the trails. There is always something to see with the wild flowers growing along the trails, squirrels and rabbits scurrying by, and if you’re lucky a deer might cross your path. Don’t forget to look up now and then because you might spot an eagle sitting on a nest. Reed Bingham is about 3 miles from my house. I grew up camping there and boating on the lake. It holds a lot of memories for me and my family. Now my grandchildren enjoy camping and walking the trails.
Moultrie Trail, a.k.a. Tom “Babe” White Linear Park, is a more urban walking path, which runs 7.5 miles from downtown Moultrie to the Moultrie Municipal Airport. The trail is an old CSX railroad bed, one of our many Rails-to-Trails paths in Georgia. (Whoever came up with the idea to turn old railroad lines into recreational trails is a certified genius.) Trailhead parking and access are available at multiple points along the route.
Providence Canyon just south of Columbus is an easy day trip for much of South Georgia. The colorful sculpted canyon walls have earned it the nickname, “Georgia’s Little Grand Canyon.” Beautiful rock formations and canyon walls that tower up to 150 feet above the wet, sandy canyon floor make for a lovely walk on a pretty Georgia afternoon. Trails throughout the canyon explore both the rim and the canyon floor.
Susan’s last suggestion is definitely on my personal bucket list. Cumberland Island is one of those places that ignites the imagination. With moss-draped live oaks, the ruins of Dungeness Mansion, herds of wild horses, and breath-taking scenery, what more could you ask for? To get to Cumberland Island, which is off the Atlantic coast, you catch the ferry leaving several times a day from St. Mary’s, Georgia. The National Park Service manages the island, and it has over 50 miles of hiking trails through maritime forests, wetlands, historic districts, marshes, and, of course, beaches. The only lodging accommodations are campsites, which make it a great weekend destination.
No matter where you live in Georgia, from Tennessee to the Florida line, there are plenty of places to get out and enjoy a walk. What are your favorite trails where you live?
As we wrap up our blog series on osteoporosis, please keep in mind that it is never too early to take steps to prevent this disease. Adopt a healthy lifestyle now to protect your bones later, and explore our great state along the way.
Karla Jacobs is a member of the Georgia Commission on Women. She lives in Marietta with her husband, two kids, a dog, and some fish. After today, she is committed to getting off the interstate and seeing more of South Georgia.
Susan Whiddon is a member of the Georgia Commission on Women. A retired teacher, Susan and her husband, David, live on a small farm near Norman Park with two Labrador Retrievers and a Boykin Spaniel. She kindly provided the photographs for this post.
May is National Osteoporosis Month. Take steps now to improve bone health for yourself and your family.
In 2004, the Surgeon General declared osteoporosis to be epidemic in the United States, affecting 4.5 million women over the age of 50 nationwide. In Georgia, osteoporosis causes 75 fractures every day and costs $1 million per day in medical expenses.
The first sign of osteoporosis is often a fracture. Sometimes the fracture is caused by trauma, such as a fall. However, when the disease is severe, the bone becomes so fragile it breaks and causes the fall. Osteoporosis is called a “silent disease” because frequently, there are no early symptoms.
The Georgia Commission on Women launched the Georgia Osteoporosis Initiative to raise awareness about osteoporosis and to encourage women to be tested and learn about their individual risk. Bone density screening is the test most often used to diagnose osteoporosis and monitor treatment.
Women most at risk for osteoporosis are those who have low body weight, smoke, or take steroid medications. Early menopause, cessation of menses before the age of 40, is a major risk factor because the levels of estrogen, a bone-protecting hormone, decline. A family history that includes fractures, particularly of the hip, is also a factor.
Here are eight steps you can take to prevent osteoporosis:
1. Do at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity every day. Weight bearing exercise in particular strengthens bone. Walk with a friend. Work in the garden. Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
2. Strength and balance training will help strengthen your muscles and prevent falls. Convince a friend to try a yoga or a T’ai Chi class with you. Both are fantastic ways to tone muscles and improve balance.
3. Protect yourself from falls. Install handrails on stairs and grab bars in the bathtub. Make sure all rugs have skid proof backing. Get rid of clutter, and ensure you have proper lighting in all areas of your home—including a night light in the bathroom. If your doctor recommends a cane or walker, use it.
4. Schedule a regular eye exam to check for problems that might affect visual acuity.
5. If you have a fracture during middle age, ask your health care provider to order a bone density test.
6. If you are 65 or older, bone density testing should be done to determine a baseline bone status.
7. Get enough calcium and vitamin D in your diet. Eat dairy products and green vegetables such as broccoli. Ask to have a Vitamin D blood level done and take supplements as recommended by your health care provider.
8. If you are diagnosed with osteoporosis, take your medications as ordered to prevent further bone loss.
Osteoporosis is preventable, but you must start now. Maximum bone density is reached by the age of 30, so prevention must begin early. Encourage your daughters and granddaughters from the time of birth to make deposits in their bone density bank by exercising and eating a balanced diet with plenty of calcium and vitamin D.
Ask to be screened if your health provider does not suggest this test. The sooner osteoporosis is detected, the better the treatment outcomes will be. Many medications are now available to help prevent further bone loss.
Sharon Baker is a member of the Georgia Commission on Women. She is a Nurse Practitioner and expert on women’s health and osteoporosis. She lives in Rome, GA.