Arthritis is the most common disability in America and has been since the year 2000. Arthritis affects nearly 50% of people by age 85 and the rates are especially high for people who are overweight or have previous injuries. Roughly 52.5 million people in the United States have some form of arthritis currently and by 2030 that number is projected to jump to over 67 million. Although it is rare, arthritis is not limited to older people: 294,000 children younger than 18 have some form of arthritis. With those numbers in mind, it’s no secret that one of the most common difficulties of aging is arthritis. As people age, arthritis can set in and rob individuals of mobility and function, while also creating considerable pain and suffering. Fortunately, there are many ways to prevent arthritis and stay comfortable and healthy throughout your older years.
Arthritic Risk FactorsThere are currently over 100 types of arthritis and all of them have a unique series of risk factors. Females are more prone to arthritis than men and a family history of arthritis raises the likelihood of developing the condition considerably. That said, many risk factors are completely modifiable and just because an individual is female or because there is a family history of arthritis does not mean that that individual will suffer from arthritis. There are many behaviors and preventive measures that can help you avoid arthritis, such as maintaining a healthy weight, eating a good diet, and not smoking. Additionally, people who have had fewer sports injuries or surgeries are at lower risk of arthritis. Although true prevention is currently believed to be impossible, here are the things that can help reduce the risk of arthritis.
1) Maintaining a Healthy WeightFor people who are at a healthy weight, maintaining that weight may be one of the biggest factors in avoiding certain types of arthritis. When people are overweight, it puts excess strain on the weight-bearing joints and creates excess wear on delicate body mechanisms. Obese women are 4x as likely as women of a healthy weight to struggle with arthritis. Fortunately, weight loss of just 5% of an obese person’s total body weight can go a long way toward decreasing joint stress and can actually cut the risk of arthritis by 50%.
2) Exercising OftenWhen it comes to bone mass, it’s a “use it or lose it” kind of game. When the bones are not used for weight-bearing activities like walking, they slowly lose density, which is accompanied by weakening muscle mass and atrophy. These things increase the risk for arthritis and associated breaks and fractures. Exercises like isometric moves or walking can be fantastic for building and maintaining bone strength. Those already suffering from arthritis symptoms may find these activities painful, however, and may prefer activities like bicycling or swimming. Even if you already have arthritis, exercise is still important: according to the CDC, when adults with arthritis engage in moderate levels of physical activity three times or more per week, they can reduce the risk of increased pain and disability by 47%.
3) Avoid injuries and have existing ones treated immediatelyIf you’re one of the many people who suffered a joint injury during your younger days, you may be at increased risk for developing arthritis as you age. This is due to the fact that injuries to joints put joints at greater risk for stress, strain, and breakdown later. In fact, people who have injured their knees are three times more likely to suffer from arthritis in the injured knee later in life. This statistic goes up if you have injured your joints as an adult. To avoid injuries, insure proper position when working out or lifting heavy objects, land with your knees bent if you need to jump, warm up and cool down after exercise, and always wear proper shoes when running or walking. If you have an existing joint injury, it is important to have it treated fully as soon as possible.
4) Eat a well-rounded dietAlthough there is no designated diet that can completely prevent arthritis, there are certain nutrients that can help avoid it or reduce its severity. These nutrients are as follows:
- Omega-3s: omega-3 fatty acids are found in high levels in fish oil, and plant and nut oils. These nutrients reduce inflammation and lubricate the joints as they move, cutting down on the friction that leads to the development or worsening of arthritis.
- Vitamin C: Vitamin C can dramatically reduce the progression of arthritis if taken in doses of 120-200 milligrams per day. Vitamin C is present in green peppers, citrus fruits, tomatoes, broccoli, leafy greens, whit potatoes, melons, and strawberries. Talk to your doctor about having your vitamin C levels tested and supplementing with an over the counter vitamin C supplement if needed.
- Vitamin D: Vitamin D has been shown to slow the progression of arthritis and help fortify bones to prevent fractures and breaks. Vitamin D is found in fatty fish, milk, cereal, and eggs. In sunny weather, vitamin D can be absorbed through sunlight but those who live in cloudy climates may need to supplement during the winter.