Arthritis is defined as a rheumatic disease that causes pain, stiffness and swelling in the joints and their connective tissues. The most common forms are rheumatoid arthritis—an autoimmune disorder that affects not only the extremities but also the cardiac and pulmonary systems—and osteoarthritis, the ‘wear and tear’ type that results from a combination of aging , irritation and abrasion of the joints and is the leading cause of disability among older adults. Most people begin to notice symptoms in middle age, with effects to the hands and weight-bearing joints like the knees, hips, back and feet. Many factors contribute to this degeneration—age, injury, genetics and obesity.
Treatment for arthritis should focus on lessening pain and improving movement; medication, exercise and diet are good ways to begin. An affected individual needs to determine what is real pain and what is good pain or soreness when exercising—the goal is to limit progression of damage and focus on posture, strength and flexibility. Warm up slowly and totally before a workout, take frequent rest periods during, and fully cool down after. Duration and frequency is more important than intensity! Use lighter resistance with more repetitions to fatigue the muscles. Water exercise is great for arthritis because the water is warm and buoyancy makes the work non- weight-bearing so easier on the joints.
The foods you eat can also help joints feel better—to help you lose or maintain a healthy weight. Here are some suggested choices:
- Vitamin C Foods—Strawberries, oranges, peaches, red bell peppers. These may help prevent progression of osteoarthritis and loss of joint cartilage.
- Olive Oil—Polyphenols in olive oil may help keep the joints lubricated and help reduce inflammation.
- Salmon—This fish is loaded with Vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids that also reduce inflamm.
- Green tea—Catechins in green tea are antioxidants that help quiet inflamm and may delay cartilage damage.
- Leafy greens— Plant based foods appear to help the joints, being rich in Vitamin K. A Mediterranean-style diet with fruits, nuts and vegetables may also help.
Try to stay away from corn oil and white bread. Corn oil is mostly omega-6 fatty acids and a big imbalance of omega-3 and omega-6 FAs in your diet could trigger joint inflammation. Choose high-fiber whole wheat bread to help prevent and quiet inflamm and for weight control.
Over 20.5 million Americans are living with some form of arthritis. By following a simple exercise regimen and sensible eating plan, you can help alleviate some of the pain and discomfort and lead a more active, fulfilling lifestyle!