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Arthritis may call to mind “grandma hands”—the knobby knuckles of an elderly person. But people of all ages can have the condition, which is the leading cause of disability in the U.S. “If you’re between the ages of 45 and 65, you have nearly a 30 percent chance of receiving a diagnosis,” says Susan Blum, MD, author of Healing Arthritis and founder of the Blum Center for Health in New York.
Simply put, arthritis is inflammation of the joints, resulting in swelling, pain, stiffness and decreased range of motion. The most common type, osteoarthritis, occurs when cartilage that cushions the ends of your bones wears away. A family history of the condition ups your risk factor, as does getting older or suffering a joint injury like an ACL tear.
Rheumatoid arthritis is a condition in which your body’s immune system mistakenly attacks your joints. RA happens when there’s inflammation in your system. Family history as well as environmental triggers like smoking may trigger RA, which can affect your heart or lungs if not treated early.
Knowledge is power, so read on for answers to key questions about arthritis—and stay healthy, happy and mobile.
Doesn’t every senior end up with a little arthritis sooner or later?
No. “Wear and tear on your joints is somewhat inevitable,” Blum says. But the inflammation that causes full-blown arthritis is not. While you may be genetically predisposed to arthritis, “lifestyle can do a lot to reduce your the 1 last update 2020/07/13 risk,” Blum says, “especially the foods you eat.”No. “Wear and tear on your joints is somewhat inevitable,” Blum says. But the inflammation that causes full-blown arthritis is not. While you may be genetically predisposed to arthritis, “lifestyle can do a lot to reduce your risk,” Blum says, “especially the foods you eat.”
Can stress cause an arthritis flare-up?
Yes. A study from Penn State University found that arguing with a spouse can cause you to experience worse arthritis pain on the same day. What’s more, the severity of the pain you experience can trigger emotional tension, which then may create additional conflict with your spouse the next day. Talking through issues calmly can help the metabolic effect of the stress hormone cortisol, which increases inflammation in your system.
What’s one thing I can do right now to cut my arthritis risk that I might never think of?
Make an appointment with your dentist. A study from the University of Leeds in England found that RA may be triggered by antibodies responding to gum disease. “The association between gum disease and RA appears to be seen in chronic periodontitis—long-standing generalized gum disease rather than acute inflammation,” says study author Kulveer Mankia, MD, clinical research fellow in rheumatology. Make sure you also brush and floss daily.
Won’t exercise make stiff joints worse?
No. According to the Mayo Clinic, avoiding exercise actually can make your joints even more painful and stiff, since keeping your muscles and surrounding tissue strong is crucial to maintaining support for your bones. If you don’t work out, your supporting muscles can weaken, stressing your joints even further. Make sure you get the OK from your doctor, then start low-impact activity like walking, bicycling, swimming or using an elliptical machine.
facet arthritis icd 10 codehow to facet arthritis icd 10 code for Which foods can help prevent arthritis or reduce its symptoms?
The Mediterranean diet plan scores high on the list of anti-inflammatory eating plans. Blum suggests keeping these five guidelines of the diet in mind:
1. Cut back on white flour and processed sugar.
2. Consider the quality of the fats you eat. “Extra-virgin olive oil, which has vitamin E as an active ingredient, and nuts, seeds, avocados and coconuts are good,” she says.
3. Opt for grass-fed beef without hormones or antibiotics and wild-caught fish, which is low in mercury.
4. Get rid of food dyes and preservatives.
5. Fill 70 percent of your plate with plants. “You want a rainbow of colors, in terms of vegetables and fruit, that deliver an abundance of antioxidants,” Blum says.
Can a positive attitude help reduce my pain?
Absolutely. Re-read this article to remind yourself that you have many good tools and options available to improve your quality of life. “You can reduce the severity of arthritis you do have through the changes you make,” Blum says. “You have control!”