Over 30 million Americans suffer from osteoarthritis (OA), or chronic joint damage. Due to long-term use, the rubbery cartilage that provides a buffer between bones wears down. Thus, bones at joints start to rub against each other, causing pain, inflammation and other symptoms. Osteoarthritis can happen all over the body and becomes increasingly degenerative with time. Despite its common occurrence rate in late middle-aged to elderly Americans, osteoarthritis is controllable through effort. Here’s all you need to know about preventing the condition.
One of the biggest preventative measures is living a healthy lifestyle through exercise and diet. Regular exercise strengthens and supports joint health, preventing OA. Moderate aerobic activity of any sort can benefit joint function, from walking your dog to a cycling class. Strength and flexibility training are also great forms of alternative exercise to build fitness. However, over-activity can be damaging. Giving your body plenty of rest and recovery between workouts prevents long-term degeneration. Stretching, warming up, and icing are all good ideas for athletic people to reduce joint damage and risk of injury. Staying active your entire life is shown to greatly reduce the effects of OA.
Highly physical jobs also come with increased risk. Careers such as construction or manufacturing that require repetitive movements often put stress on joints and cause long-term OA. Changing/mixing up your movements for comfort can help prevent joint damage. Highly stressful jobs or lack of sleep can also be risk factors for developing OA, as they impact many aspects of your mental and physical wellbeing.
Diet and Osteoarthritis
Diet also plays a part in preventing osteoarthritis. Maintaining a healthy diet with necessary vitamins, hydration and high fiber strengthens joints and lowers the risk of developing OA. Having excess bodyweight puts more strain on joints, leading to higher risk of developing OA. High blood sugar can release molecules that sensitize and put stress on cartilage. Diabetes also leads to cartilage loss.
Osteoarthritis is believed to be a largely genetic condition, meaning that you’re more likely to suffer from it if your parents or grandparents had it. By being aware of your familial history, you can receive a more informed diagnosis and treatment plan. If you are aware of osteoarthritis in your family, it may also be a motivating factor to make more drastic lifestyle changes for prevention.
Osteoarthritis and Gender
Females have a much higher chance of developing osteoarthritis than males. This is due to a lack of estrogen following menopause. Estrogen increases bone growth, so without it many women in their 40s and 50s begin to experience symptoms of osteoarthritis, even mild. Also, the reduction in estrogen causes weight gain in many women, another key risk factor for developing OA. By taking measures to lead a healthy lifestyle, women can actively prevent OA.
Osteoarthritis has no cure but can be slowed by undertaking preventative activities, especially early in life. Consult your doctor for insight into your personal risk factors and measures you can take. Slightly changing one aspect of your lifestyle can have substantial long-term benefits.
If you are worried that you or someone you love has Vitamin D deficiency, we can help! To contact an experienced double board certified orthopedic surgeon and sports medicine doctor serving patients across Kentucky and Southern Indiana, call Orthopaedic Specialists at 502-212-2663 to schedule an appointment with Dr. Stacie Grossfeld.