Arthritis is the leading cause of disability in the U.S., affecting one in four adults, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Because aging is a risk factor for arthritis, it may be on your radar of health conditions to worry about as you get older.
While you can’t do anything about getting older, there are steps you can take to protect your joint health and reduce the risk of developing arthritis regardless, of age. Following these steps can also help you manage symptoms of the disease, such as joint inflammation, swelling and pain.
Maintain a Healthy Weight. Being overweight or obese can affect arthritis risk and treatment in several ways. Research shows that obesity is associated with chronic low-grade systemic inflammation, a contributor to arthritic diseases. Weighing above a healthy weight can increase your chances of developing osteoarthritis (OA), the most common form of arthritis, in your knees than if you weren’t overweight, according to the CDC. That’s because being overweight puts more stress on your joints, potentially making hip and knee osteoarthritis worse. If you’re on anti-rheumatic drugs for psoriatic (PsA) or rheumatoid arthritis (RA), research finds that extra weight can make it harder to get your symptoms under control. Fitting in daily exercise is a good way to keep your weight in check.
Quit Smoking. Tobacco smoking increases your risk of developing RA. In fact, smoking is responsible for 20 to 30 percent of environmental risk for RA. With numerous resources to help you quit smoking, this is another risk factor you can eliminate.
Protect Yourself from Infections. Bacterial and viral infections may play a role in joint inflammation. One of the best ways to protect yourself from yearly viral infections, such as flu or pneumonia, is by getting vaccinated. Your Good Neighbor Pharmacy pharmacist can recommend and administer vaccinations.
Strengthen Your Knees and Joints. Repetitive stress and joint injury can contribute to osteoarthritis in those joints. A history of knee injury makes you three to six times more likely than someone who’s never had a knee injury to develop OA, according to the OA Action Alliance. The advocacy and educational organization has physical activity guides for every age group with exercises to help you prevent OA and heal from joint injury.
Get Up and Moving. While arthritis may mean you need to adjust your workouts to your comfort level, research finds exercise doesn’t contribute to arthritis. Even an analysis of runners found that people who are sedentary or physically inactive have a higher rate of hip and knee arthritis than runners. Only elite or highly competitive runners showed a small risk for knee arthritis. For arthritis prevention, the OA Action Alliance recommends 2.5 hours of walking, running, swimming or other moderate aerobic exercise each week, as well as two days of strength training.
Focus on Ergonomics. While strength training is good, repetitive knee bending and squatting throughout the day at work may contribute to developing arthritis in the knees. An occupational therapist can recommend better ways to perform the same work tasks while minimizing pressure or injury to your joints.