managing arthritis

Arthritis Prevention Strategies for Seniors

The month of May is National Arthritis Awareness month, a condition that affects more than 53 million American adults.  In this article, we’ll go over some lifestyle tips that can help you lower your risk of joint issues and arthritis. While you can’t always prevent arthritis due to uncontrollable risk factors like age and family history, there are some healthy habits you can practice to lower your risk of painful joints. 

  • Eat omega-3s. Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of “good” fat with many benefits for your body, including reducing inflammation. Some research has also shown omega-3s can reduce rheumatoid arthritis activity in your joints. You can make sure you’re getting omega-3s by eating fish like salmon, trout, mackerel, or sardines at least twice a week, and fish caught in the wild rather than farmed is best. In addition to fatty fish, nuts and seeds, plant oils, and eggs are also high in omega-3s. If you are not able to get enough omega-3s in your diet, you can talk to your doctor about taking an omega-3 supplement. 
  • Manage your weight. Maintaining a healthy weight can help lower your risk of arthritis and help ease the pain if you have it already. Even just losing one pound of weight can take four pounds of pressure off your knees. 
  • Exercise regularly. Exercising is a great tool to help you maintain a healthy weight, but it can also strengthen the muscles around your joints. This can help stabilize them and protect from wear and tear. It’s important to get endurance or aerobic exercise (like walking, swimming, or biking), strength exercises (like lifting weights, resistance exercises, or working against your own body weight), flexibility exercises (like stretching, yoga, and pilates), and balance exercises (like tai chi, balancing on one leg, and more). 
  • Avoid injuries. Sometimes it can be easier said than done, but keeping yourself from getting injured can help your joints too. Injured joints have damaged cartilage and can wear out more quickly. When playing sports, always wear the proper safety equipment, padding on your major joints, and supportive joints. You should also warm up before playing sports or exercising.  
  • Protect your joints. While protecting your joints and avoiding injuries might seem like the same thing, protecting your joints refers to repetitive stressful positions like bending the knees, climbing, kneeling, heavy lifting, and squatting. These happen most often in a work setting, and some occupations are more at risk than others. While you may not be able to avoid these stressful positions if it’s a normal part of your job, using the right techniques when lifting, such as lifting with your knees and hips and carrying objects close to your body, can help protect your joints.
  • Quit smoking. While quitting smoking can be hard, it is so beneficial for your body, including your joints. Several studies have shown a link between smoking and an increased risk for rheumatoid arthritis and the link is thought to be because of the increased inflammation smoking causes in your body. 
  • Treat infections. Bacteria and viruses don’t just make you feel bad when you’re sick, they can also infect your joints and lead to arthritis. Infectious arthritis, also known as septic arthritis, is a painful form of joint disease caused by the bacteria staphylococcus aureus (staph) due to the bacteria getting into your bloodstream and traveling to your joint or the fluid around the joint. This type of arthritis is treatable with antibiotics. Infections like the cold and flu may also trigger rheumatoid arthritis. 
  • Go ergonomic. If you do a lot of work at a computer, setting up your space as ergonomically as possible can protect your joints. A chair with good lumbar support (for your lower back) and a headrest goes a long way. An ergonomic keyboard and mouse can also be very helpful for your hands, wrists, and arms. 
  • Control your blood sugar. While it might seem unrelated, your blood sugar can affect your risk of arthritis, and the relationship goes both ways. If you have arthritis, you have an increased risk of developing diabetes, and if you have diabetes, you have an increased risk of developing arthritis. The reason is thought to be because of linked risk factors like age, obesity, and lack of exercise. However, both conditions are linked to increased risk of inflammation in the body as well.