Preventing Arthritis: Knowing the Risk FactorsArthritis prevention begins by knowing the risk factors for the condition. Risk factors are conditions or behaviors that increase your chances of getting a certain disease. Some risk factors for arthritis can be controlled and some cannot. Also, the more risk factors you have, the greater your chances of having arthritis.
Some osteoarthritis risk factors that you cannot change include:
- Getting older
- Certain medical conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis or gout.
Some risk factors that you can control include:
- Being overweight or obese (see BMI Calculator)
- Having weak thigh muscles
- Having joint injuries
- Putting repetitive stresses on the joints.
(Click Causes of Arthritis for more information about traits, conditions, and other factors that may increase a person's chances of developing arthritis.)
Making Good Health DecisionsOnce you know your risk factors, the next step in preventing arthritis is minimizing or eliminating the risk factors that you have. What are some specific things that you can do to help prevent arthritis? Some good prevention strategies include:
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Eating a well-balanced, healthy diet
- Exercising regularly
- Preventing joint injuries.
Maintaining a Healthy Weight
Studies have shown that for people who are overweight or obese, losing weight can decrease the chances of developing osteoarthritis.
Extra weight places extra pressure on joints and cartilage, causing them to wear away. In fact, for every pound you gain, you add three pounds of pressure on your knees and six times the pressure on your hips. In addition, people with more body fat may have higher blood levels of substances that cause inflammation. Inflammation at the joints may raise the risk of arthritis.
Weight loss can decrease stress on your knees, hips, and lower back, as well as lessen inflammation in your body.
Your healthcare providers can help you fashion a diet and exercise program that's right for you and your weight loss goals. Doctors usually recommend that people with arthritis eat a diet low in fat, cholesterol, and salt. For people with arthritis who are trying to lose weight, doctors recommend an exercise program in addition to this diet. As a general rule, try to get regular physical activity for at least 30 minutes a day on most days of the week.