Did you know that in 2010, 22.7% (52.5 million) of adults reported physician-diagnosed arthritis? And that arthritis has a slightly higher prevalence in women (23.9%) than in men (18.6%)? The high number of arthritis cases may have you wondering how to avoid this chronic illness.
Read on to learn how arthritis affects your body and what you can do to treat or prevent arthritis naturally.
Wherever two bones meet within the body, the surface is covered with matching layers of smooth cartilage that glide against each other to protect the bone. Osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis, occurs when there’s an inflammation within that cartilage that leads to damage and destruction – and it is one of the most common causes of physical disability in adults.
Damaged and prematurely worn away cartilage between two bones causes pain and grinding. And because blood flow to cartilage is poor compared to other body parts, it’s nearly impossible for cartilage to repair itself once damaged.
Arthritis Risk Factors and Symptoms
Risk factors for arthritis include aging, genetics, obesity, trauma to the joint and abnormal anatomy. There are also secondary symptoms that occur after developing arthritis. For example, after developing lower-body arthritis, people typically become more sedentary. After developing upper-body arthritis, people commonly refrain from using the affected limb or appendage.
In both cases, this lack of use can lead to reduced muscle development. Once chronic arthritis sets in, it can lead to severe pain and loss of function of the joint.
Preventative Measures for Arthritis
There are over 100 forms of arthritis and some are easier to prevent than others. In some situations, such as autoimmune rheumatoid arthritis, a low-inflammation diet that eliminates sugar and grains can alleviate some symptoms. Eating a diet low in processed foods and saturated fat and rich in fruits, vegetables, fish, nuts and beans can help fight the inflammation caused by osteoarthritis.
Maintaining a healthy weight can also help reduce the pain and take pressure off the joints. Once osteoarthritis develops, exercise can help limit pain and improve overall function, especially a focus on flexibility, aerobic and strengthening exercises. Swimming and cycling are excellent low-impact exercises that will work your muscles but aren’t hard on your joints.
While there’s nothing you can do to completely eliminate your risk for developing arthritis, there are certain steps, like diet and exercise, you can take to be more proactive about your long-term health.