Arthritis is the leading cause of disability in America. More than 54 million American adults have arthritis, and the Arthritis Foundation expects this number to exceed 78 million by 2040. Although arthritis is most common in adults ages 65 and older, it isn’t just affecting the elderly. In fact, about 300,000 children and babies have arthritis.
More troubling than the sheer number of people with arthritis is how the disease affects a person’s quality of life. The problems go far deeper than physical pain. According to the Arthritis Foundation:
The unfortunate takeaway is that people with arthritis generally feel worse and have a more negative opinion of their health, physically and emotionally, than people who don’t have arthritis.
Arthritis, or inflammation of the joints, falls into two categories. Osteoarthritis, the gradual degeneration of cartilage in the joints, is far more common. Most other forms of arthritis are considered autoimmune arthritis, including rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, lupus, gout, and ankylosing spondyloarthritis, or arthritis of the spine. Autoimmune arthritis most commonly occurs in the fingers, wrists, elbows, shoulders, knees, feet, and ankles.
Research has linked an increased risk of autoimmune arthritis to smoking, obesity, genetics, abnormal metabolism, and early life exposure to toxins, although the precise cause is unknown. However, the causes for the breakdown of cartilage in people suffering from osteoarthritis are well-documented.
“Wear and Tear” Doesn’t Go Far Enough
Most people say arthritis is just the unavoidable result of wear and tear on the joints as you age. While “wear and tear” is a common cause, you have to look deeper at what causes wear and tear and increases the risk of arthritis occurring earlier and faster.
Overuse and repeated stress on joints from heavy lifting, sports, and other activities can accelerate the breakdown of cartilage in the joints. A joint damaged by injury and/or infection is more likely become arthritic.
However, some of the most common causes of arthritis are the result of poor lifestyle choices, making them preventable in most cases. For example, obesity puts additional strain and pressure on your joints, and fat tissue produces proteins that lead to inflammation.
An inflammatory diet loaded with sugar, processed foods, saturated fat, and man-made substances that have no nutritional value causes people to gain weight. A sedentary lifestyle, with too much sitting, too much TV, too much technology, and not enough exercise, is also a top cause of obesity and, eventually, arthritis.
Lifestyle Choices and Arthritis
The bad news is, poor lifestyle choices have led to the chronic illness epidemic and an increase in arthritis cases in our country. The good news is, there’s nothing stopping you from making better lifestyle choices that can prevent or delay the onset of arthritis.
While injuries and accidents are often unavoidable, you can change your diet today with the right guidance. You can live a more active, mobile lifestyle today. If you’re already active, you can reduce the risk of arthritis by changing how you move to reduce pressure on your joints. Preventing arthritis is far easier and less expensive than managing or slowing the progress of arthritis after you notice symptoms.
In the next article, we’ll discuss how we diagnose and treat arthritis at Natural Healthcare Center.