How to reduce your risk of arthritis


Arthritis is the leading cause of chronic pain and the second most common cause of disability and early retirement due to ill health in Australia.

There are more than 100 types of arthritis and related conditions, each with individual features and risk factors.

Although there is no sure way to prevent arthritis, we can help reduce our risk and delay the potential onset of certain types.

Some risk factors aren’t modifiable, so there really isn’t anything you can do about them, such as being female and having a family history of arthritis.

However there are risk factors that can be changed in order to reduce risk, delay onset or even prevent arthritis, like obesity, smoking and having an unhealthy diet.

3.6 million Australians have arthritis. That’s 1 in 7 people.

So what can we do to try to reduce our risk of arthritis?

  • Maintain a healthy weight - Being overweight is a risk factor for developing osteoarthritis in the knees and can cause arthritis to advance more quickly.
  • Follow an anti-inflammatory diet - Research suggests that diet plays a role in the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis and its progression. Certain foods can be beneficial in lowering the risk of arthritis, while other foods can have the opposite effect. In addition to sugar, red meat, high calorie foods and refined carbohydrates, salt can also increase risk of inflammation or worsen existing inflammation. Instead we should incorporate olive oil and flaxseed oil, fatty fish, vegetables, citrus fruits and other staples of the Mediterranean diet.
  • Practise low-impact exercise - Cartilage can’t rebuild itself, so once it’s eroded, it can’t be restored with exercise. However, resistance training can increase bone density, which can help protect joints from injury.
  • Quit smoking - Smoking has been found to increase the risk of developing arthritis and also of making the disease worse.
  • Avoid injury and joint trauma - While regular exercise is important for managing arthritis, participation in sports such as soccer, football, long-distance running and weight lifting may increase the likelihood of knee osteoarthritis because of the risk of joint trauma. This is because actions such as twisting, turning and jumping can cause heavy force to the knee joint that when accumulated over the years may play a role in joint degeneration. However, as long as one avoids trauma, regardless of whether there is pre-existing disease or not, moderate exercise does not accelerate knee osteoarthritis and is actually associated with better physical functioning and reduction of pain and disability.
  • Visit your doctor if your joints are swollen, warm, or red. It might be an infection and many microbial agents, like bacteria and viruses, can infect joints and potentially cause the development of some types of arthritis.

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