Arthritis is marked by the swelling and tenderness of joints and though there are over 100 types of arthritis.
By Dr Prashant P Patil
Healthy living is a Healthy life. This is a universal truth and it is spot-on for all health issues.
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October 12th is known as ‘World Arthritis Day’ and let me tell you that the choices you make in your life will have a direct impact on your physical wellbeing, especially if you suffer from arthritis. Arthritis can affect people of all ages and sexes though it is more common in women and tends to get worse with age. Arthritis is marked by the swelling and tenderness of joints and though there are over 100 types of arthritis, the two most common ones are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
Sadly, arthritis can have a considerable impact on your everyday life. The treatment for arthritis intents to manage the pain, abate the damages to the joint and increase the quality of life of the people who suffer from it. This is why it is pertinent for the people who suffer from it to adopt certain lifestyle strategies to gain relief from arthritis.
Regardless of the type, maintaining a healthy and balanced diet with lots of Omega 3s is the first step to deal with arthritis. Studies have shown that a plant-based diet with fruits, vegetables, pulses and grains can reduce the pain associated with it. Avoiding red meat has many benefits as diets rich in fat and processed meat leads to inflammatory markers, including C-reactive protein (CRP). High fibre diets will reduce CRP. Controlling protein intake can also lower the symptoms of arthritis. Before making any extreme dietary changes, do remember that each person reacts differently and it is important to keep your doctor informed about these alterations. Making a note of your daily food intake can help you plan on managing your diet. Food that increases the symptom can be avoided and food that reduces it can be included in your daily diet.
Physical fitness & exercise
Exercise reduces the pain and stiffness, increases strength and flexibility, and also keeps the weight in check. Lack of exercise can have adverse effects on your joints as it weakens the muscles around it. When you have joint pain, the thought of exercising might be the last thing on your mind, however, moderate exercise can provide you with that much-needed relief as it strengthens the muscles around your joints and even helps you maintain bone strength. It improves your balance and gives you more energy than before. Sleep patterns also improve with exercise. The type of exercise that you need to do depends on your body type as well as the type of arthritis that you have and the joints that are affected. Daily range-of-motion exercises can provide relief from stiffness and increase movement. Weight training and other strength-building exercises help in building muscle strength. Endurance exercises can help in the overall fitness. Yoga is also known to help in improving balance and coordination. Stretching, walking, Pilates, cycling and gardening can also be adopted. If you haven’t been active for some time, give your body time and do not push too hard as overworking muscles can increase pain.
Even a little extra weight can worsen your arthritis pain. A 2005 study in Arthritis & Rheumatism of overweight and obese adults with knee osteoarthritis found that losing one pound of weight resulted in four pounds of pressure being removed from the knees. Weight loss can lessen pain, improve function and lower inflammation levels in the body. Weight loss also improves bodily functions. Reducing calorie and fat intake is essential for obese people who suffer from arthritis. Hand osteoarthritis is linked to heart disease as well and weight management not only controls arthritis but also maintains a healthy heart. Rather than set short term weight goals, give yourself time to achieve a healthy weight.
Say no to Alcohol
When it comes to arthritis, there are certain links to alcohol that one must be aware of. People tend to consume alcohol to manage pain. Certain types of arthritis-like gout are directly linked to the consumption of alcohol. Alcohol is a diuretic so your body loses water when you consume it and this can lead to dehydration. When fluids reduce in the body, your joint pains will become worse. Alcohol also interferes with some disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) as a combination means that there is an increased risk of liver cirrhosis. NSAIDs like Aleve or Motrin and alcohol could lead to ulcers and bleeding. Thus alcohol can sometimes be the trigger food for arthritis. Though alcohol in moderation might not worsen your condition, if it is a trigger food for you, stop it now for better pain management as alcohol adds calories to your diet and creates more complications.
Vitamin C intake
Vitamin C has many benefits as it is an antioxidant that protects our cells and builds and maintains collagen and tissue. It helps wounds heal and increases iron and folate absorption. This is why vitamin C is good for preventing inflammatory arthritis. Vitamin C-rich foods, including citrus fruits in your diet, can improve your pain management with arthritis. Remember too much of anything is not the answer.
We all experience stress in our lives. It makes any condition worse and arthritis is no exception. Research implies that the actual inflammation that causes pain in arthritis could be due to stress. Stress releases cytokines and that can cause inflammation and pain. In fact, your perception of pain also increases with stress. If you’re undergoing stress, do get help as it could have a severe impact on your management of arthritis.
Arthritis is a disease that is very common, yet often misunderstood. Whatever you do and do not do will have an impact of arthritis and so it is important to take control of your life in order to manage the disease.
(Dr Prashant P Patil is MBBS, MS, MRCS(UK) and Specialist in Arthroscopy and Knee Surgery at Apollo Spectra Hospitals, Bangalore. Views expressed are the author’s own.)