May Is National Arthritis Awareness Month
Do your part to help combat the number one cause of disability in America.
Each year, May is recognized as National Arthritis Awareness Month to bring attention to a condition that currently affects over 58.5 million Americans, including 300,000 children. And that number is expected to increase to over 78 million people by the year 2040, likely due to aging millennials, the largest population currently, who will be ripe for osteoarthritis (OA) by then. Given its prevalence, it’s not surprising the effects of arthritis are far-reaching: It’s the leading cause of disability in the United States and has an economic impact of over $304 billion in medical expenses and lost wages.
These numbers highlight the importance of Arthritis Awareness Month, a time to stop and recognize the impact that arthritis has and to spread the word about prevention and management. Step one, learn the facts.
Learn About Arthritis
Not many people realize that there are more than 100 types of arthritis, a general term referring to inflammation of one or more joints. These often-debilitating conditions can affect the joint as well as the tissues around the joint. While specific symptoms vary depending on the type of arthritis, they generally include joint pain, tenderness, stiffness, and swelling. Two of the most common types of arthritis are:
Osteoarthritis, also known as degenerative joint disease, is the most common type of arthritis. It’s the “wear and tear” that happens when your joints are overused. It usually happens with age, but it can also result from joint injuries or obesity, which puts extra stress on weight-bearing joints. The most common places affected by OA are the hands, hips, and knees.
In OA, the cartilage — fibrous tissue that covers, protects, and cushions the ends of bones — within a joint begins to break down, eventually causing the bones to rub together and the joints to become inflamed. This leads to pain, bone injury, and bone spur formation. These changes usually develop slowly and get progressively worse, in some cases causing reduced function and disability.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a type of autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks the lining of the joint capsule, the synovial membrane, which becomes inflamed and swollen. The disease process can eventually destroy cartilage and bone within the joint and lead to severe joint damage and deformity if left untreated. RA usually attacks many joints at once (hands, wrists, knees, ankles), and typically in a symmetrical pattern. Additional symptoms may also develop in other parts of the body such as the heart, lungs, eyes, or skin.
Other common arthropathies include juvenile arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, and gout.
5 Ways to Keep Arthritis at Bay
An estimated 25.7 million adults are limited in their usual activities because of arthritis, and that number is expected to grow to 35 million by 2040. Here are just a few of the many things that you can do to manage arthritis and its symptoms:
1. Learn self-management skills – Educate yourself on strategies for handling pain and other symptoms, carrying out daily activities, reducing stress, and improving mood.
2. Be active – Physical activity is an effective way to reduce arthritis pain and improve function, mood, and quality of life. The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend that adults be physically active at a moderate intensity for 150 minutes per week.
3. Talk to your doctor – If you are experiencing symptoms, it’s important to get an accurate diagnosis as soon as possible so you can start treatment and work on minimizing joint damage and symptoms and preventing the disease from getting worse. Ask about alternatives to drugs; for example, gels, creams, and patches that can help to relieve symptoms.
4. Manage your weight – Losing excess weight and staying at a healthy weight is particularly important for people with arthritis to reduce stress on the joints, especially weight-bearing joints such as the hips and knees.
5. Protect your joints – Joint injuries can cause or worsen arthritis. Choose activities that are easy on the joints such as walking, bicycling, and swimming. Low-impact arthritis-friendly physical activities can reduce the risk of injury and do not put too much stress on the joints.
While there is no cure for arthritis, it can be managed and treated. There are a variety of interventions that can help reduce pain, prevent or delay disability, and improve overall quality of life.
Sport Blue This Month
Arthritis Awareness Month shines a spotlight on the causes of and ways to manage the different types of arthritis. With one in four Americans afflicted with arthritis, now is the time to step up efforts to raise awareness of the profound impact of these conditions and provide support via education and advocacy.
Take time this May to learn about the tools and resources available to help those with arthritis live better, more productive lives through proper management and self-care. And don’t forget to wear blue during Arthritis Awareness Month to demonstrate your support.
5 Foods to Help Fight Arthritis
Cherries: Tart cherries offer powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits — providing joint pain relief and lowering the risk of flares in those with gout.
Dark Leafy Greens: Spinach, kale, broccoli, and collard greens are great sources of vitamins E and C. Vitamin E works to protect the body against pro-inflammatory molecules. Vitamin C helps the body make collagen, which is a major component of cartilage that aids in joint flexibility.
Seafood: Salmon, tuna, sardines, and mackerel have high levels of omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D. Both of these have been found to help reduce inflammation.
Nuts: Almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts, pecans, pistachios, and walnuts contain high amounts of fiber, calcium, magnesium, zinc, vitamin E, and omega-3 fats, which all have anti-inflammatory effects.
Garlic: Its anti-inflammatory properties can help fight pain, inflammation, and cartilage damage.
Also, consider using extra virgin olive oil when you cook, as it, too, may have a favorable effect on arthritis symptoms. Olive oil is loaded with heart-healthy fats, as well as oleocanthal, which has properties similar to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications.
CDC website: www.cdc.gov/arthritis/index.htm
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