Find out about arthritis prevention.
Because the disease affects more than one-fifth of American adults, arthritis prevention is an important part of helping people live productive, comfortable and satisfying lives. Although some types of the disease are not preventable, others are or can at least be mitigated with a combination of exercise and proper nutrition. Many of these preventive strategies may also be used as treatments, depending on the type of arthritis.
One of the best ways to prevent osteoarthritis, which is the most common form of the disease, is to maintain a healthy weight. Lowering excess body fat reduces the amount of stress placed on the body's weight-bearing joints, such as the knees and hip. In fact, the Arthritis Foundation reports that being 10 pounds overweight places an extra 30 to 60 pounds of force on the knee, which can aggravate cartilage in the joint and lead to osteoarthritis. People can reduce this stress and lower their risk for developing arthritis by combining small dietary changes with regular exercise to safely lose weight.
The Mayo Clinic recommends gentle aerobic exercise to strengthen muscles and improve joint stability. Swimming, walking and biking are good activities because they are low-impact and place minimal stress on the joints. Exercises like yoga and tai chi that involve gentle stretching as well as strength-building movements increase range-of-motion (ROM) in the body's major joints and may also be beneficial in preventing arthritis.
Before starting a diet or beginning a new exercise routine, arthritis patients should consult their doctors. Also, to achieve safe long-term weight loss, patients should aim to lose no more than two pounds per week.
People with occupations involving repetitive movements that place stress on their joints (e.g., dairy farmers, cotton mill workers and jackhammer operators) are at an increased risk for developing arthritis. Although there is no way to completely eliminate the effects these jobs have on the body, workers can take steps to soften their impact. For example, workers can avoid placing unnecessary strain on their backs by using proper technique or an assistive device to lift heavy objects.
It is equally important to avoid excessive repetitive movement during exercise. People participating in sports that require repetitive movements, such as running, can reduce stress on their joints by improving their biomechanics and wearing cushioned, supportive footwear that promotes natural alignment of the foot and leg bones. In particular, running with proper technique may lower the risk for osteoarthritis.