How to Reduce Your Risk of Developing Arthritis
By Brian Acton
Preventing arthritis isn’t as straightforward as you may think. There are many factors that contribute to your risk of developing arthritis; some of them, such as genetics, aren’t modifiable, and your risk increases as you get older. Plus, there are over 100 types of arthritis, each with unique risk factors.
While no one has discovered a foolproof way to prevent arthritis, there are some lifestyle modifications you can make to reduce your risk of developing the more common types, such as osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
Here’s how you can reduce your risk of developing arthritis.
- Maintain a Healthy Weight
Obesity is directly linked to many forms of arthritis, including osteoarthritis. One reason is that excess weight puts extra stress on your joints, leading to damage or wear and tear. For example, every extra pound of weight on your body puts an additional four pounds of pressure on your knees. This is why you’re more likely to develop osteoarthritis when you’re overweight.
To reduce the amount of stress you’re putting on your joints (and minimize contributing factors for other forms of arthritis), you should try to maintain a healthy weight. Even if you’re extremely overweight, every pound you lose can help.
- Eat a Healthy Diet
A healthy, balanced diet will help you maintain or lose weight. It will also help you regulate your blood sugar and avoid developing diabetes, which is heavily linked to arthritis; people with diabetes are almost twice as likely to have arthritis. And some omega-3 fatty foods, such as fish, are thought to reduce the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis.
- Get Some Exercise
Just like a healthy diet, regular exercise can help you maintain or lose weight to reduce your risk of arthritis. But exercise can also help strengthen muscles that surround and support your joints, which will stabilize them and reduce the amount of stress they endure. Plus, exercise can help your joints stay limber and increase their range of motion.
The stronger your muscles, the better the protection for your joints. A consistent exercise routine that incorporates stretching, aerobic, and strengthening exercises will help you avoid arthritis in the long run.
- Give Up Smoking
Smoking increases your risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis (not to mention cancer, heart disease, and other serious health conditions). If you quit smoking now, your likelihood of developing rheumatoid arthritis will decrease over time.
- Avoid Injuries
Injuries can raise your risk of developing arthritis when you’re older, even decades later. Torn ligaments and cartilage - injuries that are frequently sustained during sports - can cause arthritis in the injured joints. According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, damaging a joint makes you seven times more likely to develop arthritis.
While exercise is an important aspect of a healthy lifestyle, you should take care to avoid sustaining any injuries during sports or everyday activities.
While there’s no guarantee you won’t develop arthritis, these lifestyle modifications can help reduce your risk. But even if you already have arthritis, you should consider following these recommendations - many behaviors that reduce the risk of developing arthritis also
alleviate symptoms for those that already have it. Talk to your doctor about specific steps you can take to reduce your risk of arthritis or manage your specific case.