hands of a woman with arthritis

Arthritis is common. In fact, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it is the nation’s most common cause of disability. An estimated 350 million people worldwide have it, and approximately 52.5 million adults in the United States have been diagnosed with it. Though arthritis in its various forms is widespread, unlike popular belief, it is not an inevitable part of aging. There are simple lifestyle changes that can be made to prevent and postpone arthritis. Here are a few that people of all ages can use to reduce their risk:

1. Do full-mobility exercises

One of the keys to maintaining full mobility in your joints is to use them. Holding a joint in the same position for too long can lead to permanent mobility loss. To prevent this, practice stretching and flexibility exercises that use your full range of motion. When you turn your head to the side turn until your chin is almost parallel to your shoulder, and feel the stretch in your neck muscles. When you extend your knee, fully straighten your leg. You should feel the difference in stretches that use full mobility in part because your muscles aren’t used to the complete extension. As you continue doing these stretching exercises, they’ll become more comfortable. Slowly and gently straightening your joints as far as they can comfortably go can reduce stress and help affected joints regain their mobility.

2. Eat fish

Eating fish or taking fish oil supplements is connected with reduced inflammation and greater range of motion. Fish oil is a source of omega-3 fatty acids that block off inflammatory cytokines and prostaglandins which your body converts into anti-inflammatory chemicals called resolvins, reducing pain and inflammation. Supplements are easy to take a couple times a week, and fish dinners, especially involving cold-water fish like salmon, halibut, and cod, are tasty alternatives that can help ease and prevent pain.

3. Watch your weight

Excess weight puts stress on your joints, which causes pain and discomfort. According to John Hopkins, being 10 pounds overweight can increase the force on your knees by 30–60 pounds, which will cause motion discomfort and intensify joint damage over time. Fat tissue also forms and releases chemicals which may increase inflammation. Returning to a healthy weight removes that unnecessary pressure on your joints and decreases inflammation.

4. Avoid injury

An estimated 10–15% of patients diagnosed with osteoarthritis actually have posttraumatic arthritis (PTA), which results from a past acute joint injury. Even after the best treatment, damaging a joint, ligament, or tendon significantly increases your probability of developing arthritis. Past sports or accident injuries may have left your cartilage permanently damaged, which can lead to future pain. To help avoid this, limit your participation in contact sports and always use proper safety equipment while playing. Seniors who have worked in active, labor-intensive jobs, like cosmetology or construction, will generally get arthritis earlier than those who have not put that daily stress on their joints. If you’ve experienced a joint injury, to delay or avoid future pain, limit activities that put stress on the joint at work and at home.

5. Use tools that protect and assist your joints

To help take the stress off of your joints, use tools designed to assist in activities that require frequent joint strain. Using canes or walkers can ease stress on the knees. Pens, pencils and knives with thick, easy-to-grip handles can help with the tension caused by tightly gripping small objects. And reachers, used for grabbing high or distant objects, along with food dicers, and other helpful kitchen and home tools can simplify various daily tasks. Protective braces for hands, wrists, and knees can also help to ease the strain of your regular activities.

 

Though many seniors suffer from arthritis, it’s not inevitable. There are many measures you can take to avoid arthritis and reduce its effects. If you experience frequent joint pain and think you may have arthritis, or if you want to begin early preventative measures, you should also consult with your doctor who can give you specific recommendations for your situation.