Orthopaedic surgeon tells how to lower your risk of arthritis

Font Size:

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 such as 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. It was found that one in 11 Australians (9.3 per cent) – or about 2.2 million people – had osteoarthritis in 2018.

The pain and restricted movement caused by arthritis mean 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, a consultant orthopaedic surgeon in London, outlines seven ways to reduce your risk of developing osteoarthritis.

1. Maintain movement
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 “But this thinking is very outdated, and we now understand the importance of keeping the body physically mobile for as long as possible.”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, moving your body regularly and avoiding being too sedentary.

2. Be mindful of muscles
“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.

3. But don’t overdo it
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 problems 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 stresses that a moderate level of exercise, five times a week, is usually ideal for most people and will help ensure joints remain healthy.

4. Body weight is key
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 anywhere between 18.5-25.

5. Look out for food triggers

“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 should try to keep to a diet rich in good fats, such as fish, avocado and nuts and seeds.

6. Do your best to avoid injury
Try to avoid injuries to your bones and joints, either through playing sport and exercising or in day-to-day 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 when playing sports, and ensure that when exercising, you’re using the correct techniques.

7. Seek medical help quickly
“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 treatment, such as physical therapy, dietary changes, and exercises to help rebuild strength.

Do you have arthritis, or do you worry about developing it? Do you already follow any of these steps?

– With PA

If you enjoy our content, don’t keep it to yourself. Share our free eNews with your friends and encourage them to sign up


Disclaimer: This article contains general information about health issues and is not advice. For health advice, consult your medical practitioner.

RELATED LINKS

Living with arthritis? Tips to manage stiffness

Mornings are that much harder when your joints are stiff and painful.

The dos and don'ts of lifting weights if you're older

A new study shows how beneficial strength training is in reversing frailty.

How The Midlife Method author keeps her health on track

An evidence-based, healthy weight loss plan for the over 40s



SPONSORED LINKS

Sign-up to the YourLifeChoices Enewsletter

continue reading

Superannuation News

Is your super fund heading for a double-digit year?

One year ago, the prospect of superannuation funds recording double-digit returns seemed inconceivable, but that it exactly where a lot...

Lifestyle

Napping could help you stay mentally agile

We all have nights when we fall seriously short of the recommended eight hours of shut-eye, and the following day...

Health news

Link found between pro-inflammatory diets and 27 chronic diseases

Meghan Hockey, Deakin University and Wolfgang Marx, Deakin University Almost half of all Australians live with a chronic disease, which...

Aged Care

Friday Reflection: Why did I wait so long?

I'm ex-RNAS and ex-RNZN. Widowed, six years back, our bedrooms upstairs. Perfect, while both active. However, isn't there always a...

COVID-19

National Cabinet to fast-track COVID-19 vaccination for over 50s

Australia will fast-track its COVID-19 vaccine rollout for people older than 50 next month, as National Cabinet seeks to reset the...

Health Insurance

Six reasons your health fund won’t give you a better deal

Do you trust your health fund to give you a better deal? If you think you’re paying too much, it...

COVID-19

Monoclonal antibodies useful for fight against COVID variants

Monoclonal antibodies could prove a game changer for COVID-19 prevention after a trial found they reduced the risk of coronavirus...

Entertainment

Friday Funnies: Science says

  Here are five of the funniest jokes of all time. If you disagree, don’t blame us. Professor Robert Dunbar...

LOADING MORE ARTICLE...