Arthritis is a very common condition. According to the Arthritis Foundation, it affects over 50 million adults and 300,000 children in the United States. Arthritis is also the number 1 cause of disability in the US. Arthritis can develop as a result of age, gender (women are more likely to develop arthritis), genetic predisposition, and other genetic factors. There is no sure-fire way to prevent arthritis, but there are several steps you can take to reduce your risk for arthritis.
What is Arthritis?
Arthritis is a condition that causes inflammation, pain, and swelling in your joints. There are more than one hundred types of arthritis, each with its own causes and symptoms. The two most common types are Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis.
Osteoarthritis is also called “wear-and-tear” arthritis because it generally comes with age. Osteoarthritis occurs when the tissues protecting your joints wear away. Some of the symptoms are:
- Pain deep in your joint
- Trouble gripping things, climbing stairs, carrying things, etc.
- Limited range of motion
Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease where the body’s immune system attacks its own joints and protective tissues. Doctors are not completely sure what the direct cause of RA is. Symptoms of RA are similar to Osteoarthritis, but also include:
- Symmetrical pattern (i.e. one wrist is inflamed, later the other wrist is inflamed as well)
- Pain, stiffness, and swelling across multiple joints
- Swelling that does not go down
Luckily, there are several lifestyle changes that can reduce your risk for arthritis.
8 Tips for Reducing Your Risk for Arthritis
Manage your weight
Your knees and hips carry the weight of your entire body. Excess weight puts additional stress on your joints, tissues, and cartilage. Even just 10 pounds of extra weight can add between 30 to 60 pounds of pressure on your knees. Studies suggest that people who are overweight are 4.55 times more likely to develop osteoarthritis. A balanced diet and exercise can help you maintain your weight and protect your joints.
Get regular exercise
Regular exercise can help you maintain your weight and it strengthens muscles that protect your joints. Getting 30 minutes of aerobic or endurance exercise, like walking or biking, five times a week will improve your overall fitness and endurance. Additionally, try introducing strength training, like lifting weights or doing bodyweight exercises, twice a week. Strength training helps to strengthen the muscles that support and protect your joints.
Incorporate Omega-3s into your diet
Research shows that incorporating Omega-3s into your diet can help prevent or lower RA activity in the body. Omega-3s are found in fatty fish, like salmon and trout, and nuts and seeds, like chia seeds. The American Heart Association recommends eating two 3.5-ounce servings of fatty fish per week to keep your heart and bones healthy. Omega-3 supplements are a great substitution for eating fatty fish.
Sports injuries can permanently damage cartilage and tissues that are supposed to protect your joints. Some studies found that about 50 percent of people who injure their anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) develop knee Osteoarthritis within 10 to 15 years, even with surgical treatment. Take preventative measures while playing sports like warming up, cooling down, and wearing pads. Stretching or doing yoga can help keep your joints moving through their full range of motions and prevent injury. If you do sustain an injury, see a physical therapist to ensure proper recovery.
Keep an eye on your blood sugar
There is a deep correlation between arthritis and diabetes. According to the CDC, 47% of adults with diabetes also have arthritis. Research shows that people with arthritis are 615 more likely to develop diabetes. High blood sugar causes a constant low-level inflammation in the body which can contribute to arthritis. Get regular blood pressure checks to maintain your overall health.
Smoking can inhibit the body’s natural response to fight off signs of arthritis. Researchers found that smokers are more likely to develop RA. Smoking can also speed up the damage done by arthritis.
Perfect your posture
Set up your office space and home to be more ergonomically correct. At work, choose an office chair with good lumbar support that allows you to keep your feet flat on the floor and your arms at a 90-degree angle. Your computer monitor should be about an arm’s length away from your body and be angled about 15 degrees below eye level to prevent neck strain. Be careful of work that involves doing small, repetitive motions as this can cause repetitive strain injuries. Always use proper form when lifting heavy objects!
Get routine preventative care
The best way to reduce your risk for arthritis is to invest your time in preventative care. See your doctor regularly for checkups. If you notice any symptoms of arthritis (like joint swelling or pain, decrease in range of motion, etc), see your doctor immediately.
Check out our services page to see how Work Health Solutions can help you set up your office or workspace ergonomically and find specialists to treat and prevent arthritis
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