Arthritis Prevention: What Can You Do?
How to Avoid Achy Joints
You can’t always prevent arthritis. Some causes—such as increasing age, family history, and gender (arthritis is more common in women) are out of your control. Yet there are a few health habits you can change to reduce your risk of developing painful joints as you get older. Many of these steps—like exercising and eating a healthy diet— prevent other diseases too.
Certain fish are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, a healthy polyunsaturated fat. Omega-3s have a number of health benefits—and may reduce inflammation in the body.
A study in Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases found that women who eat fish regularly may be at lower risk for rheumatoid arthritis. The USDA recommends eating fish high in omega-3s—like salmon, trout, mackerel, and sardines—twice a week.
Control Your Weight
Your knees have to support your body weight. Being overweight or obese can take a real toll on them. If you’re just 10 pounds overweight, the force on your knee as you take each step increases by 30 to 60 pounds, according to Johns Hopkins.
Overweight women are almost four times as likely to get knee osteoarthritis as women of a healthy weight are. Diet and exercise can bring your weight into a healthier range.
Exercise not only takes the stress of excess weight off your joints. It also strengthens the muscles around the joints, which protects them from wear and tear.
To maximize the benefits of your exercise program, alternate aerobic activities such as walking or swimming with strengthening exercises. Also add in some stretching to maintain your flexibility and range of motion.
Over time, the joints can start to wear out. But when you injure your joint—for example, while playing sports or due to an accident—you can damage the cartilage in the knee and cause it to wear out more quickly.
To avoid injury, always use the proper safety equipment while playing sports, and learn the correct exercise techniques.
Protect Your Joints
Using the right techniques when sitting, working, and lifting can help protect joints from everyday strains. For example, lift with your knees and hips—not your back—when picking up objects.
Carry items close to your body, so you don’t put too much strain on your wrists. If you have to sit for long periods of time at work, make sure that your back, legs, and arms are well supported.
Have a Drink
A study in BMJ suggested that women who drink moderate amounts of alcohol have a lower risk of rheumatoid arthritis. This one study can’t prove that alcohol prevents arthritis. However, drinking moderate amounts each week (one glass a day for women and two glasses for men) has also been linked to other health benefits, such as a lower risk for heart disease.
Before drinking alcohol, ask your doctor if it’s safe for you.
See Your Doctor
If you do start to develop arthritis, see your doctor or a rheumatologist. The damage from arthritis is progressive, meaning that the longer you wait to seek treatment, the more destruction will occur to the joint.
Your doctor may be able to suggest treatments or lifestyle interventions that can slow the progress of your arthritis and preserve your mobility.
- Eat seafood twice a week: 10 tips to help you eat more seafood. (2011, December). United States Department of Agriculture. Retrieved August 19, 2013, from http://www.choosemyplate.gov/food-groups/downloads/TenTips/DGTipsheet15EatSeafood.pdf
- Giuseppe, D.D. et al. (2012). Long term alcohol intake and risk of rheumatoid arthritis in women: a population based cohort study. BMJ, 345, e4230. Retrieved August 19, 2013, from http://www.bmj.com/content/345/bmj.e4230
- Giuseppe, D.D. et al. (2013, August 12). Long-term intake of dietary long-chain n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and risk of rheumatoid arthritis: a prospective cohort study of women. Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases. Retrieved August 19, 2013, from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23940215
- Post-Traumatic Arthritis. (2010, June 18). Cleveland Clinic. Retrieved August 19, 2013, from http://my.clevelandclinic.org/disorders/arthritis/hic-post-traumatic-arthritis.aspx
- Role of Body Weight in Osteoarthritis. (2012, March 27). The Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center. Retrieved August 19, 2013, from http://www.hopkinsarthritis.org/patient-corner/disease-management/role-of-body-weight-in-osteoarthritis/
- Treating and Preventing Arthritis. (n.d.). American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. Retrieved August 19, 2013, from http://www.aapmr.org/patients/conditions/rheumatology/Pages/arthtreat.aspx