Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease. There is no known way to prevent it, because the exact causes are still unknown. However, there may be ways to reduce the chance of developing severe joint damage after an RA diagnosis.
If you have any symptoms of RA, see a doctor as soon as possible. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), early, aggressive treatment can delay serious side effects of RA. It can also reduce the risk of developing serious joint damage down the road.
According to Mayo Clinic, gentle stretching and strength exercises can reduce RA pain. They can also decrease bone loss, a potentially serious side effect of RA.
However, talk to your rheumatologist or physical therapist about developing an exercise program that is safe for you. Exercising during a flare-up can cause pain or injury. High-impact exercises, like jogging, can also put you at risk.
In general, you should rest during flare-ups to prevent further damage. Then you can exercise in between episodes to maintain joint flexibility and function.
According to the CDC, smoking significantly increases your risk for developing RA. A history of smoking is associated with a 1.3 to 2.4 times increased risk of RA. It’s the one risk factor for the disease that is in your control.
If you’re a smoker, quit today. Quitting smoking will greatly reduce your chance of getting RA later in life.