Arthritis – the oldest crippling disease known to man. This joint disease, which causes painful inflammation and stiffness in the joints, affects millions of people worldwide.
With increasing life expectancy, and the number of people over the age of 50 expected to double by 2020, the burden of arthritis and other musculoskeletal disorders is expected to rise significantly.
There are over 200 types of arthritis, with some of the most common being osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoporosis and gout. Around 20% of the population in the UAE currently suffer from arthritis, with average time from the first signs to diagnosis coming up to one year, owing to the lack of awareness about arthritis signs and symptoms.
Unfortunately, arthritis is not entirely preventable or curable. But as is always the case, prevention is indeed, better and more possible, than cure. Baby steps taken today can help you to steer clear of the crippling disease later in life. Here are a few measures that you can take to keep yourself and your loved ones safe from the painful clutches of arthritis:
Learn about the disease
First, educate yourself about arthritis. Knowing the signs and symptoms, the risk factors and maybe even your genetic predisposition to arthritis (your likeliness to get arthritis based on family history) can help with prevention measures. A little awareness can unquestionably help you and your family to avert the condition.
Arthritis.org is a great resource with a rich bank of information on the symptoms, prevention, management of arthritis and other related information.
Pay attention to your body
When it comes to physical discomfort, ignorance is certainly not bliss! Do not overlook the signs and signals that your body might be giving you. Look out for pain, swelling and stiffness in your hands, wrists, feet, knees, ankles, shoulders and elbows, especially if the pain or discomfort persists or recurs often. In such case, you should consult a rheumatologist immediately and undergo the recommended screening tests.
Some forms of arthritis are also known to affect more than just joints.
A sedentary lifestyle is an invitation to a host of diseases, arthritis included. Exercise not only reduces the stress caused by excess weight on your bones and joints, but also strengthens muscles, ultimately protecting them from wear and tear.
Go for walks, practice yoga, hit the gym, play a sport. Find a form of exercise that you enjoy so you’re motivated to keep at it consistently.
Say no to tobacco
Cigarettes are your greatest nemesis. Many studies have shown evidence that relate smoking to increased chances of developing arthritis. Read on to know what Dr. Ghita Harifi, a distinguished rheumatologist, has to say about smoking and arthritis.
Eat your fish
Certain types of fish are a rich source of Omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids have many benefits and reducing inflammation in the body is one of them. Some studies have ascertained that women who eat fish regularly are at a remarkably lower risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis. Salmon, trout, mackerel, and sardines are a great source of Omega-3.
Get your Vitamin-D
A study links Vitamin-D deficiency to rheumatoid arthritis, one of the most prevalent types. Bones are made up of calcium, and Vitamin-D plays a pivotal role in the absorption of calcium by your body. If you have a Vitamin-D deficiency, all those calcium-rich foods like milk and eggs aren’t really able to deliver their calcium content because it doesn’t get absorbed by the body.
Health.com recommends 20-25 minutes of sun exposure a day, canned tuna, fortified milk and more in their list of 12 great ways to get your Vitamin D.
Spice up your life with turmeric
Research shows that curcumin, a bright yellow chemical produced from turmeric, inhibits many of the mediators of inflammation linked to rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, and osteoarthritis development. Turmeric consistently reduces arthritis symptomology and may serve as an excellent complementary treatment for joint pain and has many other healing properties.
Be mindful of your posture
Your standing posture, the way you lift something heavy out of the car, and long hours you might spend slouched behind a desk are all crucial aspects that affect the health and strength of your joints.
A small change in the way you sit at your work desk can help relieve undue back strain. If your work requires you to sit at a desk for long hours, make sure to take small breaks and flex your neck and back.
Little fixes like bending your knees when you’re going to pick up a heavy load, and making a conscious effort to stand tall (imagine a string pulling you straight up from the top of your head), go a long way in protecting your bones and joints and reducing undue pressure on them. Here are some useful tips on good posture from the American Chiropractic Association.
Watch your weight
Arthritis can be most painful and troublesome when it affects some of the larger joints in your body, such as your knees. Your knees bear almost all your body weight.
Obesity, naturally, takes a toll on your knees and eventually, your knees give up. Excess body weight is one of the major triggers of arthritis. Eating a healthy, balanced diet, getting in some exercise and keeping your weight under check definitely help to keep the disease at bay.
There is no surefire way to ensure you don’t get arthritis. There are also no known cures, although you will come across helpful information on the management of the disease.
With mindful care and by taking a few measures that are generally good for your health and lifestyle anyway, you can drastically reduce your chances of contracting arthritis, especially later in life when your bones and joints are naturally starting to get more tired. An ounce of prevention, after all, is worth a pound of cure.