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Ways to Prevent and Care for Arthritis

Don’t Let Arthritis Stop You from Living an Active Lifestyle

Arthritis is one of the leading causes of disability in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention contends 23 percent of all adults suffer from arthritis. Prevalent symptoms of arthritis include joint pain, stiffness, and inflammation. According to the Arthritis Foundation, there are more than 100 types of arthritis. Many forms of arthritis can be prevented or delayed by following a healthy lifestyle. The following are preventative measures you can take against arthritis along with self-management tips if you do suffer from joint pain. Arthritis doesn’t stand a chance against you once you plan out ways to keep symptoms at bay.

Know the Risks 

Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis worldwide. It is estimated almost half of adults over the age of 60 show signs of the condition. Osteoarthritis is considered a natural result of aging as cartilage gradually starts to deteriorate. However, there are factors determining how quickly the cartilage wears down. As an example, Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center found overweight women are four times more likely to have osteoarthritis in the knees while men are five times more likely to have the condition.

The second most common form of arthritis is rheumatoid arthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder where the body inadvertently attacks healthy tissue. The lining of the joints is specifically targeted—leading to bone loss and deformity of the joints. Some risk factors for rheumatoid arthritis can’t be controlled such as age, gender, and family history. However, smoking and obesity increase your chances of developing rheumatoid arthritis.

Controlling your weight can be a challenge to many of us. As we age, it’s very important we maintain the same active lifestyle we enjoyed during our formative years. As little as 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week makes a significant difference in preventing arthritis. Exercise keeps the joints flexible while also strengthening the muscles that support the joints. Diet is also an important component of maintaining a healthy weight. Choose foods low in calories with high nutritional value such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. Controlling blood sugar levels is also important. Diabetes is a known risk factor for osteoarthritis. The correlation comes from elevated glucose levels triggering inflammation. The inflammation leads to the cartilage breaking down at much faster rate. If you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes, it’s extremely important to follow insulin and dietary guidelines provided by your physicians. Dietary restrictions are also helpful for gout prevention. Besides reducing calorie and sugar intake, patients are asked to limit alcohol and reduce purines in diet. Purines raise uric acid in the body, which in turn can lead to gout. Examples of foods very high in purines include beer, lamb, beef, pork, anchovies, herring, scallops, and sardines.

Self-Management of Arthritis

Getting an arthritis diagnosis doesn’t have to feel disheartening. Many individuals are able to remain active and control their symptoms effectively. Work with your doctor to figure out triggers for your symptoms and what remedies provide you with pain relief. Keep a journal, especially during the early days following your diagnosis, to record medication usage, drug side effects, and pain symptoms. If your doctor decides to go ahead and prescribe medication for your arthritis, don’t rely on medicine alone. Pain can often be best managed with a combination of natural and pharmaceutical remedies.

A main component of arthritis treatment will be a regular exercise routine. Your doctor is likely to recommend you partake in low-impact aerobics, strength training, and flexibility exercises. Although 30 minutes daily is recommended, exercise can be broken into 10-minute intervals throughout the day. Walking, rowing, and swimming are a few examples of low-impact workouts that won’t hurt your joints. For the strength training portion, exercises such as wall pushups, bicep curls, tricep presses, and hip raises can be performed. When using weights, start with a modest weight before gradually increasing the load. Yoga and Pilates moves are perfect for those looking to improve flexibility. Basic stretches are also beneficial for keeping you limber.

Although working out is an important component of arthritis management, caution must be used. High-impact exercises involving jumping can put a lot of stress on the joints. Sports that involve a lot of twisting and bending can also prove problematic. For instance, tennis and bowling may cause a lot of pain flare-ups in patients. If you experience pain and swelling after exercise, consider changing up your routine. Try gentler exercises or reduce the time you spend working out. At times, rest for your joints is needed. Find the ideal balance of physical activity and rest to manage your symptoms.

Supplements and Healthy Eating

Healthy eating keeps excess weight off of the joints and reduces inflammation. Avoid processed and fast foods that are high in saturated fat and calories. Choose foods high in antioxidants such as green leafy vegetables, fruits, fish, and olive oil. If you don’t feel like you get enough fish in your diet, an omega-3 fish oil supplement may prove helpful. Studies have shown fish oil supplements improve morning stiffness and reduce overall inflammation attributed to rheumatoid arthritis. Glucosamine is an additional supplement that is recommended for arthritis sufferers to take; keep in mind that many supplements will not work instantaneously. Often, a month or more is required of daily use before improvement in symptoms can be noted.

Additional Supports

Pain management is a large part of coping with arthritis symptoms. If you’re in pain, you’ll find it difficult to find any enjoyment in the activities you normally love to do. Hot and cold compresses are a form of pain relief therapy used to manage arthritis. While a cold compress reduces swelling, a hot compress provides pain relief. Leave compresses on problem areas for a maximum of 20 minutes.

Over the counter medications such as acetaminophen, naproxen sodium, and ibuprofen are options for when pain and inflammation become unbearable. Remember, overuse of pain relievers can cause severe side effects such as liver problems and stomach bleeding.

Community supports are also helpful for those suffering with arthritis. There are educational workshops and support groups available throughout communities nationwide. Connect with fellow patients and get advice on what aids they’ve found most helpful. For instance, shower chairs and easy grip tools are two examples of practical gadgets used by arthritis patients.     

Living in a supportive living environment such as The Villa at Florham Park is another way you can maintain your active lifestyle as you manage arthritis symptoms. The Villa at Florham Park is a thriving community located in Florham Park, New Jersey, with a jam-packed activities schedule, beautiful grounds, and wonderful neighbors. Give us a call today to find out more about what we have to offer.