Many people are under the false presumption that arthritis is a single disease. Arthritis really refers to joint inflammation and actually refers to over 100 different rheumatic disorders and other related conditions associated with swelling, inflammation, and joint pain/stiffness.
Certain arthritis-related conditions actually affect parts of the body besides just the joints. For example, in some cases, muscles, tendons, and even skin can actually become painful and inflamed. Additionally, some conditions affect the internal organs and can even be debilitating or worse, life-threatening.
The two most common forms of arthritis are rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. While they’re both under the umbrella of “arthritis,” they’re actually very different.
Another thing people falsely believe is that arthritis only affects elderly people. The truth is, it can affect anyone- even children. Though it is true that the possibility of developing arthritis does increase with age, nearly 3 of every 5 people under the age of 65 are affected by some form of arthritis.
What Increases Your Risk for Developing Arthritis?
As with any other disease/disorder, there are certain things that have been proven to increase your risk for developing arthritis. Some of them, you simply can’t change. However, some of them, you can. The ones that you have no control over are as follows:
- Age: as you get older, your risk for developing arthritis increases- you can’t stop the clock.
- Gender: women have a greater risk for most forms of arthritis- in fact, around 60% of individuals affected by arthritis are women. However, gout is much more common in men than in women.
- Genes: there are specific genes that have been proven to increase your risk for developing specific forms of arthritis.
How Can You Decrease Your Risk for Developing Arthritis?
As mentioned above, there are some factors that you simply can’t control- no matter how hard you try or how much you want to. However, all is not lost. There are a few things that you can do in order to reduce your risk for suffering from arthritis and/or joint pain/stiffness/swelling both now and later on in life.
Don’t wear high heels: While it’s true that high heels will help to elongate your body and make your body look great- you can do some serious damage. You should keep heels 2 inches or less for every day wear in order to reduce your risk for arthritis later in life. Wearing lower heels reduces knee strain. Save those really high heels for special occasions.
Lose weight if necessary: Being overweight or obese can definitely contribute to arthritis, especially as you get older. So, losing just a little bit of weight can definitely reduce the stress and strain placed on your joints. Did you know that when you’re walking, the load on your knees is four times your body weight? This means that if you’re a mere 5 pounds more than your “ideal”, you have an extra 20 pounds on your knees.
Eat an apple a day: You’ve heard the old saying, “an apple a day will keep the doctor away,” right? Well, that may not necessarily be entirely true, but an apple a day will help to keep arthritis away. However, you must make sure that you eat the peel also. The peel is what has most of the antioxidants in it, which help to reduce joint pain/inflammation. Also, consider eating more of those other antioxidant-rich foods as well.
Eat more olives: Olives contain a substance called hydroxytyrosol, which as ten times more antioxidants than are found in Vitamin C.
Take supplements: Your diet may not contain enough vitamins and minerals alone. You also will want to consider taking a supplement. A combination of glucosamine and Omega-3 has been proven to be much more effective than taking glucosamine by itself. However, a word of caution- make sure to speak with your physician before taking any supplements to make sure they will not interact with other medications you may currently be taking.
Cut back on running: If you’re an avid runner, and you tend to run on pavement, you will need to cut back if possible. Running on pavement actually increases pressure on all your joints. Going for a bicycle ride burns just as many calories as running does and its much lower impact. If you just can’t stop running, try to find a running track in your area to run on- or consider alternating running with other lower impact exercises.
Get plenty of exercise: In general, exercise does increase the natural lubricants and oils in your body that help to prevent the wearing down of joints. The best exercises to do are swimming, cycling, or walking.
So, while it’s definitely true that some of the risk factors are natural and completely out of your control, you shouldn’t just give up- you can take steps to decrease your risk. Do what you can to take care of your body now and you will be less likely to suffer later on.
If you’re already suffering from arthritis, you can still do some of the above to help to decrease your symptoms of arthritis. You may notice that it’s harder to exercise in the mornings if you’re already suffering from arthritis because you’ve been sleeping all night and you’re stiff. Do some simple stretches to warm up your muscles and joints and go for a morning walk.
Arthritis is a painful condition affecting the joints, and sometimes other body parts. You will definitely want to do what you can to decrease your chances of developing it so that you can live a healthy, active lifestyle for many years to come.