It’s important to recognize that arthritis is not a natural part of the aging process. While it’s true that some unchangeable factors, such as age or gender, put certain people at greater risk than others, there are steps everyone can take to help prevent or delay the onset of arthritis.
Here are some general tips you can follow to help reduce your risk of developing arthritis.
- Stay hydrated. Cartilage — the cushioning tissue in your joints — needs ample hydration in order to protect your joints adequately. Experts recommend drinking six to eight cups of water a day.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Each pound of extra weight loads several pounds of extra stress on your joints.
- Stop smoking. Smoking has been identified as a factor that causes poor immune responses in people who are genetically more likely to develop arthritis.
- Avoid high heels. High heels can cause inflammation and can put stress on the feet and knees. Instead wear high quality shoes with good support.
- Get enough vitamin D. Vitamin D is good for the bones and has been shown to lessen the progression of osteoarthritis.
- Get enough vitamin C. Studies show eating fresh fruits and vegetables that are high in vitamin C may help prevent osteoarthritis.
- Eat fish. Fish that contain omega-3 fatty acids such as salmon and trout may help reduce inflammation and help prevent arthritis.
High Risk Groups
Some groups are at higher risk for developing arthritis due to the activities they perform. This includes people who work long hours as well as young athletes. Here are some arthritis prevention tips specific to these groups.
- When sitting, use a chair that fully supports your lower and mid-back. If you are using a computer, ensure your elbows can be positioned at a 90-degree angle to the keyboard.
- When standing, make sure that your work area is not only set up to support the work you do, but also is adjusted to your body type and height. Try using footrests so you can shift your weight from one foot to another.
- If you play contact sports, always wear protective gear and use the proper equipment.
- Play safely to avoid anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears in your knees. Torn ACLs can lead to osteoarthritis years or decades later.
- Listen to your body and use common sense. Don't overdo it and never “play through” the pain.
- Build your quadriceps and hamstring muscles. This can protect your knees from injury and future arthritis.
- If a joint is painful due to play, apply ice to the area. This is usually the first step toward avoiding more serious injury and reducing the risk of future arthritis.
Finally, one of the simplest ways to prevent arthritis is through movement. So get up and move, twist and turn, stretch those arms and legs. One day, your bones and joints will thank you for it!