Arthritis is not a single condition. This term covers more than 100 types of joint diseases that affect nearly 40 million Americans, including 250,000 children. Arthritis develops when you lose cartilage cushioning your joints. As this tissue deteriorates, the bones forming your joints begin to rub together, which can lead to pain, inflammation, swelling, stiffness, and more cartilage degeneration.
You can lose cartilage for several reasons. Some are beyond your control, such as having a family history of arthritis or being a woman. But you can also lose cartilage for controllable reasons, such as being overweight and not exercising.
As an orthopaedic surgeon, Vasili Karas, MD, offers the most advanced surgical and nonsurgical techniques available for addressing the symptoms of joint disease at Chicago Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine. He recommends taking the following approaches to help protect your joints and avoid arthritis.
Watch your weight
If you need another excuse to get your weight under control, think about your joints. Every extra pound you carry puts an additional six pounds of pressure on a joint. This added stress can lead to inflammation and damage. If you’re overweight or obese, Dr. Karas recommends losing 5-10% of your body weight. Taking this step can reduce your arthritis symptoms and help prevent or slow joint disease conditions.
Don’t skip the gym
Staying active and picking the right forms of exercise is essential for keeping your joints strong and healthy. Dr. Karas suggests incorporating joint-sparing activities, such as swimming, water aerobics, and cycling. And, if you participate in high-impact activities, such as running, you should invest in quality shoes and impact-reducing insoles to help protect your joints.
Follow a healthy diet
To help avoid arthritis, you should limit the foods you eat that can increase inflammation in your body. These often include:
- Fried and processed foods that are high in saturated fats
- Refined carbohydrates
- Processed sugar
- Alcohol and caffeine
Dr. Karas recommends eating the following foods:
- Foods high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, avocados, nuts, and seeds
- Cultured and fermented foods, such as yogurt, sauerkraut, and kimchi
- Plenty of fruits and vegetables
Be aware of your joints
Repetitive actions can cause joint damage over time. To avoid everyday strain on your joints, practice correct body mechanics and ergonomics by:
- Making sure your chair offers good support
- Practicing good posture
- Taking regular short breaks
- Changing up activities
- Using proper movements when lifting and carrying objects
- Stretching your joints regularly to reduce pain and stiffness
You need to do everything you can to avoid joint injuries, because once you damage tissue near a joint, you significantly increase your chances of getting arthritis in the future.
To learn more about avoiding arthritis or slowing its progression, book an appointment online or over the phone with Chicago Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine.