Arthritis Prevention | Revere Health
Several parts of the body naturally wear down as we age, especially the joints that help connect our bones. When these joints become inflamed or damaged over time, arthritis can develop.
Arthritis is a progressive condition that tends to get worse over time and is associated with many painful symptoms that can sometimes accompany aging. Some of the more common types are present, to some degree or another, in nearly half of all people by the time they reach age 65.
Because it is so common, many adults are aware of the condition. This awareness is a good thing—while there are some factors you can’t control, there are several others that you can control. Here’s a look at the basics of arthritis, and some ways you can put yourself in a good position to avoid symptoms as you get older.
There are over 100 different types of arthritis, but many of them are rare. There are two primary types that are more common, though:
- Osteoarthritis: Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis—it affects nearly half of all people in some form by the time they reach age 65. Part of the reason it’s so common is the fact that it’s often caused by basic wear-and-tear to the joints over time. Your joints have cartilage that provide a layer of coating for bones to move without rubbing against each other, but cartilage can cause pain and movement problems if it wears down too much.
- Rheumatoid arthritis: Rheumatoid arthritis is caused by the body’s own immune system attacking an area called the joint capsule, a membrane meant to protect the joints. The membrane can swell and affect both cartilage and bone.
Symptoms for these types of arthritis, and many others, range from general pain and stiffness to swelling, redness and a reduction of mobility.
You can do several things to lower your risk of developing symptoms of arthritis. However, there are also several factors outside your control that might raise your risk. Risk groups include:
- Age: As you get older, your risk of arthritis increases.
- Gender: Women are more likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis, but men are more likely to develop a different type of arthritis called gout.
- Family history: Certain types can develop genetically.
- Obesity: Wear and tear is one of the primary factors in osteoarthritis. Obesity puts more stress on the joints, and can speed up this wear and tear.
- Previous injury: Once joints have been injured, they’re more prone to future injury or chronic arthritis symptoms.
Because they’re at a higher risk, people who fall under any of these categories may benefit even more from some positive, preventive habits.
Treatment and Prevention
Risk levels differ among individuals, but there are several areas you can address to help lower your risk:
- Weight: Losing weight is a great way to lower risk. Research has strongly supported a connection between weight loss and lower risk of osteoarthritis.
- Exercise: Not only can exercise help you lose weight more quickly, the strength it can add to your muscles can go a long way to preventing arthritis. Muscles support joint health, and exercises that are simultaneously light on the joints—biking and swimming, for instance—are great for strengthening muscle without putting too much pressure on joints.
- Hot and cold: Both as a complement to exercise and on its own, using ice and heat treatments for any minor joint pain you do have can help relieve pain and swelling.
- Treat injuries: If you’ve experienced a joint injury, you’re at a higher risk. Take more precautions when exercising—stretch longer, and use proper equipment.
- Walking devices: For people trying to limit joint pain, things like canes and walkers can be valuable. They make daily tasks easier while taking pressure off your joints.
- Diet: A good diet will help you lose weight, and there are some nutrients (Omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D) that may reduce the risk.
For those who do develop it, there are several treatment methods available. These range from medications to surgery, and some people have found success with massage and other forms of alternative medicine. If you’re demonstrating early signs of arthritis or experiencing joint pain, speak to your doctor about treatment and prevention options.
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This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.