Osteoarthritis (OA) is a degenerative disease of the joints that causes pain, stiffness, and sometimes swelling or deformity. About 32 million women and men in the United States have OA, which is the most common type of arthritis.
The biggest risk factor for OA is increasing age. In fact, 88% of women and men with OA are over age 45. More whites have OA than other ethnic groups, although the prevalence within other groups is much higher than it is in the Caucasian population.
Native Americans have the highest rates of OA in the US, followed by Hispanics and non-Hispanic Blacks. Due to racial, health, and economic disparities, OA has a greater impact on people of color than it does on whites, with more debilitating disease and social isolation.
Kimberly Bolling, MD, is an expert internist who diagnoses and treats all forms of arthritis, including OA, at our Bowie, Maryland, office. Whether you have OA or one of its risk factors (we’re all getting older!), some contributors to OA are within your control.
Following are a few risk factors that you can influence to improve your joint health, starting today. If you currently have arthritis, please let us know so we can design a treatment protocol.
Being overweight or obese
Your hip, knee, and ankle joints must support the weight of your entire body when you stand, walk, run, dance, or perform many activities that give your life meaning (and motion). The more extra weight you carry, the more stress you put on your joints.
Being overweight or obese may also make you feel lethargic and less likely to exercise and move those joints. Guess what? Your joints need to move to stay healthy. Even a daily walk can help.
If you’ve struggled with weight loss programs that only work temporarily, Dr. Bolling helps you find the right foods and a new relationship to different and healthier choices that makes weight loss both significant and sustainable.
Response to joint injury
Have you fallen or been in a car accident? While you can’t control the fact that the accident happened, you can control your response.
After any type of injury that affects your joints, be sure to get a complete medical workup. Just as athletes are proactive with their joint health, and use exercise and other means to keep the muscles around the joints strong enough to support them, you should, too.
Also, finding out if your cartilage has been damaged or is inflamed allows Dr. Bolling to consider treatment options to keep your joint tissues as healthy as possible. She may prescribe medications or supplements that support cartilage, bursa, and other tissues in your joints.
Not enough exercise
If you already have OA, you may wince at the mere idea of moving your joints regularly. But, as mentioned above, exercise actually makes the muscles around your joints stronger and keeps the joints healthier.
When you flex and straighten your joints, a special tissue called the synovium, which covers your joints, releases a lubricant called synovial fluid. Synovial fluid allows your joints to glide smoothly and friction-free, reducing irritation and inflammation
If you’re an athlete, musician, or a manual worker who must perform the same tasks and movements over and over, you’re at risk for OA. While you may not be able to change your job or don’t want to give up your sport or hobby, you can find new ways of performing necessary movements.
By adding variety into your repetitive motions, you allow your joints to reset. Work with a physical therapist to develop an effective warm-up session with stretches and strength-building exercises to protect your joints.
Are you at risk for OA, or do you already have it? Find out how to protect your joints or get the OA treatment you need by calling us today at 301-352-0090. You can also request an appointment online.