Osteoarthritis, also referred to as OA, is a degenerative disease of the joints. It is a chronic condition where the cartilage in the joints breaks down, causing frictional stress on the area, boney overgrowth and other localized ligament and muscle problems. The Arthritis Foundation describes the symptoms as joint pain, stiffness and evidence of swelling that may worsen due to reduced mobility and function in the affected areas.
Prevalence of Osteoarthritis
Data from the Centers for Disease Control show that OA is the most common form of rheumatism in the U.S. The latest surveys show that OA is most prevalent in the 65 and older demographic with a 33 percent incidence rate. Overall, osteoarthritis affects close to 27 million adults with women being more affected than men especially in the over-50 age group.
Osteoarthritis mostly manifests in the joints of the hands, feet, knees and hips according to the CDC report. The condition is serious enough to cause hospitalizations. About 55 percent of arthritis-linked hospital admissions are due to OA with over 400,000 cases listing this condition as the primary diagnosis according to CDC reports.
While the specific causes of OA remain unclear, the National Institutes of Health cautions that risk factors include being overweight, repetitive motion involving the joints and injury to the joints. While age, gender and genetics play a role in OA development, some sensible lifestyle changes may help prevent osteoarthritis.
A Healthy Diet
It is very important for those who are at risk for OA to be proactive in maintaining a healthy lifestyle to prevent weight gain. Being overweight stresses the joints especially in the hips, knees and feet. Data generated from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey showed that overweight women were about four times more likely to develop osteoarthritis than women who were not overweight.
Prevent Injuries to the Joints
Studies conducted by the Johns Hopkins Medical School showed that patients who injured their knees in earlier years were three times more likely to develop osteoarthritis in the affected knees. If the injury occurred during the adult years, the likelihood of developing OA increased five-fold.
To prevent injuries, follow recommended warm-up and cool-down practices before and after vigorous activity. Opt for shoes that cushion the feet, and always land with knees bent.
Take Nutritional Supplements
No specific diet can prevent osteoarthritis, but certain diet supplements may help stave off the onset of the condition. Omega-3 fatty acids from fish, nuts and other oils reduce inflammation while vitamins C and D can slow down symptomatic osteoarthritis according to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases.
A separate study conducted by King’s College of London indicated that allium compounds found in garlic, onions and leeks could inhibit degeneration of the joints. Ginger and ginger products reduce inflammation of the joints and alleviate stress-related muscle pain.
Medications and therapies including yoga, meditation and other relaxation techniques can ease the symptoms of osteoarthritis. In addition, doctor-recommended injections, prescription or over-the-counter drugs may help ease the symptoms, but preventative measures will go a long way in inhibiting the development of osteoarthritis.