More than 50 million Americans are living with arthritis, a painful reminder none of us is getting younger.
In healthy joints, cartilage provides cushioning, acts as a shock absorber and allows bones to move smoothly over each other. Arthritis causes that cartilage to break down, leading to painful bone-on-bone joint movements, bone spurs, and wear and tear on joints that can be as painful as they are debilitating.
It’s easy to attribute the disease to just “matter-of-fact” aging, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Protect yourself from arthritis
Arthritis is actually the failing of a complex biochemical process of cartilage cells trying to heal areas of damage in which genetics, age, gender (a majority of arthritis sufferers are women) and race play a role.
For all the factors you can’t control, you can take steps to keep your joints healthy:
- Protect your joints at work
The largest impact can be made through small changes in the office. If you sit at a desk, make sure your chair supports your lower and middle back. Your elbows should remain at a 90-degree angle to your keyboard. If you stand while working, think about your posture. You should not favor one leg – try to shift your weight occasionally.
- Stretch your joints regularly
Stretching will prevent stiffness and pain from setting in. If you sit a lot, make a point to get up and walk around every 30 minutes to keep your joints moving and your blood flowing.
- Play hard, but be careful
Skiing, basketball, soccer, volleyball and contact sports (football) are particularly difficult on your knees and have been linked to a greater incidence of arthritis. Tennis has been tied to arthritis in the arms and shoulders. If you play, pay special attention to joint injuries. Wear braces when needed. If you’re a runner, invest in good shoes. Joint-sparing activities, such as swimming, water aerobics and cycling are great alternatives.
- Mind your middle
Each extra pound of body weight you carry can add another six pounds of stress to a joint.
- Beware the Manolos
The human foot wasn’t designed for its owners to walk on their toes all the time, a fact the fashion industry ignores. So, trade those Manolo Blahniks or Jimmy Choos occasionally for a flatter heel. High heels put your feet in an unnatural position and throw off the alignment of your knees, hips and back.
- Vitamin D is important
This vitamin is essential for bone health and has been shown to slow the progression of osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis. It also improved muscle movement and helps fight inflammation.
- Stay hydrated
As if we needed another reason to drink water! Cartilage is made up mostly by water. When we’re not fully hydrated, cartilage gets dried out and is more susceptible to injury. Try to drink six to eight cups of water a day.
You can help fight arthritis this Saturday at the Arthritis Foundation’s Jingle Bell Run. The five kilometer walk/run, a fundraiser benefitting arthritis research, will be held Saturday, December 10, 2016 at 10 a.m. at the Northern Kentucky Convention Center. Click here to learn more.