Arthritis is a common condition that affects the joints by causing inflammation, stiffness and pain. There are many different types of arthritis and each one has its own list of risk factors. Some risk factors, such as genetics and gender, are beyond our control, but it is possible to modify some of our risk by making simple lifestyle changes. Here are 4 ways to reduce your risk of arthritis.
1. Eat a balanced diet that’s low in purines
Gout is a type of arthritis caused by the crystallisation of uric acid around the joints. It happens when there are excessively high levels of uric acid in the blood. One of the risk factors for gout is a diet that’s high in purine-rich foods such as red meat, oily seafood, shellfish and alcohol. This is because the body produces uric acid when it breaks purines down. You can therefore reduce your risk of gout by adopting a healthy, balanced diet with a low to moderate proportion of purine-rich foods.
A balanced diet can also help you to avoid gaining excess weight, which is a risk factor for osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis. It’s a degenerative disease in which general overuse and wear and tear of the joint causes permanent damage.
2. Exercise regularly
Exercise can help to modify a range of risk factors. Firstly, it can help to reduce the risk of obesity or help you to lose excess fat to reduce pressure on your joints. Secondly, it can help to strengthen muscles and improve the flexibility of tendons and ligaments to ensure joints are better stabilised and protected against injury.
Exercise can also help to improve balance in order to reduce the risk of falls that could cause injury to joints and lead to arthritis in the future. For optimum results, adopt an exercise regime that includes cardiovascular exercise such as jogging or swimming, strength training such as weightlifting or bodyweight exercises, and flexibility and balance exercises such as yoga or Pilates.
3. Improve posture and ergonomics
Repetitive movements and straining of joints can contribute to arthritis risk. It’s important that your joints are adequately supported at all times, particularly if you adopt the same position for most of your day, such as sitting at a desk to work.
Set up your workstation in an ergonomic manner to adopt a healthy posture. Ensure you’re not slumped over, craning your neck or overextending your hips, knees, elbows or wrists. You should also use an office chair that provides good support for the back, neck and head.
4. Quit smoking
People who smoke are at an increased risk of rheumatoid arthritis, which occurs when the immune system incorrectly attacks the tissue that lines the joints. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease and it has a strong genetic link, which means some people are simply more likely to get it than others. Those with a family history of the condition should quit smoking to minimise the risk of triggering it.
Avoiding smoking can also help to reduce the risk of other types of arthritis. Smoking affects the respiratory and circulatory systems, and over time it inhibits healthy blood flow. This can affect normal function of the joints and muscles and contribute to joint degeneration.
Take care of your whole body to reduce arthritis risk
Arthritis is caused by such a huge variety of factors that it’s impossible to modify all risks. The best way to keep the disease at bay is to take care of your entire body by adopting a healthy and balanced lifestyle.