Arthritis, A Disease for the Aged?
When I think of arthritis, images from my childhood of grandparents with swollen knuckles and sore knees come to mind. Back then, the disorder was something that afflicted older adults, nothing for me to worry about…until I was a teenager. Then, an orthopedic surgeon shocked me with a warning that I would most likely develop arthritis in my knee after surgery for torn cartilage (knock on wood, it hasn’t happened yet!)
Although we haven’t found a cure for arthritis, our knowledge regarding prevention and treatment has come a long way over the past half century! So this blog is dedicated to exploring what we know, and what you can do, about this common malady.
Arthritis—By the Numbers
May is National Arthritis Awareness Month, a time to learn more about this disorder that affects one in five adults, or nearly 53 million people. Its main symptoms are joint pain, swelling, and stiffness; these usually grow worse with age.
Here’s some information about the condition from the Arthritis Foundation:
1) Arthritis is the nation’s No. 1 cause of disability.
2) Two-thirds of people with arthritis are under age 65, including an estimated 300,000 children. But the incidence increases with age—almost half of adults 65 years or older have arthritis.
3) 36 percent of obese adults have arthritis.
4) Among adults with arthritis, nearly half (47 percent) have at least one other disease or condition.
a) 57 percent of adults with heart disease have arthritis.
b) 52 percent of adults with diabetes have arthritis.
c) 44 percent of adults with high blood pressure have arthritis.
d) 33 percent of adults over 45 with arthritis suffer from anxiety or depression.
5) Arthritis accounts for $156 billion annually in lost wages and medical expenses.
6) The condition is more common in women than in men.
A Myriad of Variations
While there are more than 100 types of arthritis and related diseases, the two most common types are osteoarthritis (a localized joint swelling commonly caused by wear and tear or injury to the cartilage between bones, especially the lower back, hips, knees, and feet) and rheumatoid arthritis (a condition in which the body’s own immune system attacks the lining of the joints, which become inflamed and swollen).
Scientists don’t know exactly what causes or how to prevent arthritis, and it’s generally considered incurable. Being female and having a family history of the disorder increase your risk of developing arthritis. But other risk factors are modifiable.
What You Can Do Now
• If you don’t have arthritis, take care of your joints. Injury increases the chances of developing the condition.
• For osteoarthritis, maintain a healthy weight. Every pound of weight gain equals four pounds of additional pressure to each knee!
• For rheumatoid arthritis, don’t smoke. And consume a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, high in phytochemicals that help protect against chronic inflammation.
• Move! Regular physical activity is an important strategy for relieving pain and maintaining function for people with arthritis.
• Once diagnosed with arthritis, check with your health care professional about medications to reduce swelling, such as acetaminophen, aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen sodium.
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