While it’s not al­ways pos­si­ble to avoid, for many peo­ple, life­style mea­sures could help keep the con­di­tion at bay. LISA SALMON finds out how

Western Daily Press - - Health & Lifestyle -

IT’S es­ti­mated around 10 mil­lion peo­ple in the UK have arthri­tis, and al­though it’s of­ten seen as an older per­son’s affliction, any­one can get it – in­clud­ing chil­dren. Broadly speak­ing, arthri­tis means pain, swelling and stiff­ness re­lated to in­flam­ma­tion in a joint or joints. There are sev­eral dif­fer­ent types, in­clud­ing chronic au­toim­mune dis­eases like rheuma­toid arthri­tis, but the most com­mon form of arthri­tis is os­teoarthri­tis.

This is the type that’s gen­er­ally as­so­ci­ated with wear-and-tear over time, and Ver­sus Arthri­tis, a new merger be­tween Arthri­tis Care and Arthri­tis Re­search UK (ver­susarthri­tis.org) says it af­fects some 8.75 mil­lion of us.

The pain and re­stricted move­ment caused by arthri­tis means it can be very de­bil­i­tat­ing and have a sig­nif­i­cant im­pact on day-to-day life. While ge­net­ics can play a key role in de­vel­op­ing it, os­teoarthri­tis can also be linked to life­style fac­tors, which means there are a num­ber of steps many of us can take to help lower the risk.

Here, Mr Panos Gikas, con­sul­tant orthopaedic sur­geon at The Lis­ter Hospi­tal in Lon­don, part of HCA Health­care UK (hc­a­health­care.co. uk), out­lines seven ways to re­duce your risk of de­vel­op­ing os­teoarthri­tis...


REG­U­LAR ex­er­cise and be­ing phys­i­cally ac­tive isn’t just im­por­tant for keep­ing your car­dio­vas­cu­lar health in good shape, it’s es­sen­tial for keep­ing joints happy too.

“There’s a com­mon mis­con­cep­tion that the on­set of arthri­tis is brought about by peo­ple wear­ing their joints out as a re­sult of too much phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity,” says Mr Gikas. “But this think­ing is very out­dated and we now un­der­stand the im­por­tance of keep­ing the body phys­i­cally mo­bile for as long as pos­si­ble.”

Stud­ies look­ing at the re­la­tion­ship be­tween reg­u­lar recre­ational ex­er­cise and os­teoarthri­tis of the knee have gen­er­ally found no ill-ef­fects, he notes.

“Un­for­tu­nately there’s been con­fu­sion around the role ex­er­cise plays, but it’s im­per­a­tive that ev­ery­one keeps ac­tive in or­der to main­tain their range of move­ment.” Re­mem­ber, just get­ting out­side for a daily walk counts – think in terms of be­ing gen­er­ally ac­tive and mov­ing your body reg­u­larly, and avoid­ing be­ing too seden­tary.


“AN­OTHER im­por­tant fac­tor that ev­ery­one should be aware of is main­tain­ing good mus­cu­loskele­tal strength,” stresses Mr Gikas. “Again, this is achieved by reg­u­lar, mod­er­ate ex­er­cise which will help to keep the bones and joints healthy, and should be car­ried out by peo­ple of all ages.”

As well as help­ing pre­vent arthri­tis, good mus­cu­lar strength can help to re­duce the chances of lower back prob­lems, os­teo­porotic frac­tures and other mus­cu­lar based in­juries.

Ways to im­prove or main­tain mus­cu­loskele­tal strength in­clude weight-bear­ing ex­er­cises, such as weight train­ing, walk­ing, jog­ging, climb­ing stairs, ten­nis, and danc­ing.


WHILE reg­u­lar ex­er­cise at all ages is es­sen­tial for low­er­ing the risk of arthri­tis, Mr Gikas notes that over­do­ing ex­er­cise can be detri­men­tal.

“Keep­ing fit and healthy is es­sen­tial, but ac­tively do­ing an ex­er­cise or ac­tiv­ity which over-ex­erts the joints could cause is­sues and ul­ti­mately lead to the on­set of the con­di­tion,” he ex­plains.

He says ev­i­dence shows the risk of os­teoarthri­tis re­lates more to the in­ten­sity of the level of sport par­tic­i­pa­tion (elite vs recre­ational) and par­tic­u­larly the pres­ence and/or like­li­hood of a joint in­jury. But he is also keen to stresse that a mod­er­ate level of ex­er­cise, five times a week, is usu­ally ideal for most peo­ple and should help to en­sure joints re­main healthy longer.


HAND-IN-HAND with reg­u­lar ex­er­cise, an­other im­por­tant way peo­ple can lower their risk of arthri­tis is by main­tain­ing a healthy body weight. Mr Gikas ex­plains that when you ex­er­cise, the amount of pres­sure felt by your knee joint is es­ti­mated as be­ing the equiv­a­lent of seven times your body weight. There­fore, if body weight is kept within the ‘healthy’ BMI (body mass in­dex) range, you’ll be putting less pres­sure on your joints, and sub­se­quently re­duce the risk of caus­ing a prob­lem. A healthy BMI is be­tween 18.5-25.


“NOT only should you be mind­ful of diet in terms of your body weight, it’s also im­por­tant to un­der­stand that cer­tain foods or food groups can trig­ger in­flam­ma­tion – the pri­mary cause of arthri­tis,” warns Mr Gikas.

Foods or types of food to watch out for in­clude sugar, sat­u­rated fats, re­fined car­bo­hy­drates, gluten, and al­co­hol. He rec­om­mends those mak­ing an ef­fort to avoid arthri­tis try to keep to a diet rich in good fats, such as fish, av­o­cado and nuts and seeds.


TRY to avoid in­juries to your bones and joints, ei­ther through play­ing sport and ex­er­cis­ing or in day-to­day life, be­cause if you sus­tain a car­ti­lage-based in­jury within a joint, it can cause it to wear out much quicker than nor­mal, pos­si­bly re­sult­ing in os­teoarthri­tis.

The risk of joint in­juries can in­crease de­pend­ing on the level of par­tic­i­pa­tion in a sport, so if you’re an avid ex­er­ciser or per­form to an elite level, make sure you al­ways use the cor­rect equip­ment, and en­sure that when ex­er­cis­ing, you’re us­ing the cor­rect tech­niques.


“IF an in­jury is sus­tained, seek­ing spe­cial­ist med­i­cal ad­vice as soon as pos­si­ble is very im­por­tant in or­der to re­duce the risk of arthri­tis,” ex­plains Mr Gikas.

“Repet­i­tive trau­mas are a key driver of the con­di­tion, so if you don’t get an in­jury treated prop­erly from the out­set, you could cause your­self sig­nif­i­cant dam­age fur­ther down the line.”

If you’re in­jured, prompt med­i­cal at­ten­tion means a doc­tor will be able to as­sess the prob­lem and rec­om­mend suit­able treat­ment, such as phys­i­cal ther­apy, di­etary changes, and ex­er­cises to help re­build strength the af­fected area.

Keep­ing fit... is es­sen­tial, but ac­tively do­ing an ex­er­cise or ac­tiv­ity which over-ex­erts joints could cause is­sues Con­sul­tant orthopaedic sur­geon Mr Panos Gikas

Stay ac­tive to keep yourjoints sup­ple

The right diet, above and pre­cau­tions against in­juries can re­duce the risk of arthri­tis in later life

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