Osteoarthritis is extremely common in the United States. Arthritis often goes undiagnosed and untreated, so it’s hard to say exactly how many people in the U.S. suffer from it; however, experts estimate that between 50 and 70 million Americans have some degree of this condition. Because it’s so common and primarily related to pain, it’s easy to think of arthritis as little more than an annoyance. However, as anyone afflicted with this condition will tell you, arthritis can be debilitating. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that as many as 1 in 20 Americans are limited in their ability to work for pay by osteoarthritis.
If you’re suffering from arthritis, your first and most important source of advice should be your healthcare provider. There are several medications, therapies, and treatments that your doctor can prescribe to treat arthritis, but there are also ways to manage this condition through lifestyle and behavioral choices. According to the Arthritis Foundation, arthritis medications can have negative side effects, such as stomach ulcers, upset stomach, elevated blood sugar levels, and more. Therefore, many arthritis sufferers prefer non-medicinal treatment approaches when those options are on the table:
- Manage your weight. Extra weight, even seemingly small amounts, puts extra pressure on the joints and exacerbates the effects of arthritis. Ask your doctor or a nutritionist about what the normal weight range is for someone of your height and build. You and your healthcare provider can work together to formulate the right diet and exercise regimen for your health goals. Your joints will thank you.
- Eat to combat inflammation. Inflammation in the joints makes arthritis pain more severe, but you can manage this problem with your diet. Avoid or reduce your intake of refined carbohydrates (like white bread and pastries), fried foods, sugary beverages, red meat, processed meat, margarine, shortening, and lard. These foods can cause inflammation, but certain other foods can have anti-inflammatory properties. These include green tea, tomatoes, olive oil, green leafy vegetables, almonds, walnuts, fatty fish (like mackerel, tuna, and salmon), and fruits (like strawberries, blueberries, cherries, and oranges). A diet rich in these foods not only combats inflammation—it may also keep your brain healthy.
- Engage in joint-friendly exercise. Certain types of exercise can be tough on the joints and may be one of the main contributors to arthritis. For instance, someone who has been running regularly for years can develop arthritis and other pain-related issues in their knees or back. Avoiding high-impact exercise is one of the best ways to prevent or manage arthritis, but engaging in low-impact, joint-friendly exercises can keep the joints from becoming stiff. A sedentary lifestyle is more likely to result in arthritis and similar problems. Certain types of yoga, activities in heated pools, and tai-chi are some of the most popular forms of low-impact exercise, but that’s just scratching the surface. Check out our blog “Tips for Exercising with Arthritis” for more detailed advice.
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