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 Factors
There 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 Weight
For 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 Often
When 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 immediately
If 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 diet
Although 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.
Preventing Arthritis 101: Why you Should Treat Symptoms Early
If you’ve been suffering from pain, stiffness, swelling, or loss of mobility in a joint for two weeks or more, seek your doctor as soon as possible. While these symptoms may seem small, they can be warning signs of arthritis and, if left untreated, can easily turn to full-blown arthritis very quickly.
While arthritis may not be completely preventable, it can be treated much easier with early diagnosis and treatment. This is because early treatment minimizes damage to joints. As arthritis progresses, damage to joints becomes more pronounced and, as the damage goes on, it becomes harder and harder to treat.
That said, those who receive treatment for arthritis early will have better outcomes and will likely be able to maintain more mobility.
While there is no way to prevent arthritis entirely, the above tips can help decrease your risk of developing arthritis wile also helping to stave off symptoms. In the event that arthritis is already established, there are several treatment options available. Pain relieving medications like NSAIDs or acetaminophen may be helpful and, in severe cases, some doctors may prescribe an antidepressant to help cope with musculoskeletal pain.
If you believe that you or a loved one may be suffering from arthritis, it’s wise to visit your doctor as soon as possible. Early treatment can help avoid joint pain and damage and help reverse certain symptoms. While you may not be able to completely prevent arthritis, these tips can help you reverse symptoms and cope with pain. While arthritis is a very common condition, it doesn’t have to decrease your quality of life as you age.