You can’t always prevent arthritis. Some causes, such as increasing age, family history, and gender (many types of arthritis are more common in women), are out of your control.
There are over 100 different types of arthritis. The three main types are osteoarthritis (OA), rheumatoid arthritis (RA), and psoriatic arthritis (PsA). Each type develops differently, but all are painful and can lead to loss of function and deformity.
There are a few healthy habits you can practice to reduce your risk of developing painful joints as you get older. Many of these practices — 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 they can 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 United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends eating fish high in omega-3s — like salmon, trout, mackerel, and sardines — twice a week. Fish caught in the wild is usually recommended over farmed fish.
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 more likely to get knee osteoarthritis than women of a healthy weight. Diet and exercise can help bring your weight into a healthier range.
Exercise not only takes the stress of excess weight off your joints, but also strengthens the muscles around the joints. This stabilizes them and can protect them from added 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, your joints can start to wear out. But when you injure your joints — for example, while playing sports or due to an accident — you can damage the cartilage 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.
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.
A study in BMJ suggested that women who drink moderate amounts of alcohol may 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, especially when on medications.
If you do start to develop arthritis, see your doctor or a rheumatologist. The damage from arthritis is usually progressive, meaning the longer you wait to seek treatment, the more destruction can 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.