How to prevent or make life easier with arthritis

More than 4.6 million Canadians are living with arthritis, according to The Arthritis Society. While arthritis can develop at any age, it’s more common among older adults, affecting 43% of Canadians 65 and over, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC).

Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis (there are over 100 types) and the one found most often in seniors. The disease wears down cartilage, the material that cushions the ends of bones, causing varying degrees of pain, stiffness and swelling. Up to age 55, men and women are almost equally susceptible to osteoarthritis, but after that age women are more vulnerable and the disease affects them in different ways, says Health Canada. In women, osteoarthritis tends to affect the hands, knees, ankles and feet, usually involving multiple joints. In men, the hips, wrists and spine are more likely to be affected.

Steps to prevent or manage arthritis

While you can’t avoid some risk factors for arthritis, such as age and genetic predisposition, you can take action to help prevent or reduce the effects of the disease in your daily life. Evidence clearly shows that some modifiable risk factors, such as physical inactivity, poor diet and excess body weight, can contribute to and worsen arthritis. Making positive changes in those areas can either prevent or help you manage any form of arthritis by reducing pain, increasing mobility, improving overall function and enhancing quality of life, according to PHAC.

senior asian couple exercising using dumbbellsExercise offers potent pain relief

Research shows that exercise seems to be the most consistently effective method of reducing arthritis-related pain, says PHAC. Canada’s Physical Activity Guide to Healthy Active Living for Older Adults recommends that people with arthritis do gentle movements every day to keep their joints flexible. A physical or occupational therapist can help you choose the right kinds of activities to ease your pain and improve your range of motion.

Ease strain on the joints

Being overweight increases the risk of developing osteoarthritis. People who are heavier are more likely to experience severe arthritis symptoms than those with arthritis who maintain a healthy weight, says Health Canada. A healthy diet and being active can help you to reach and maintain a healthy weight, which will reduce stress on weight-bearing joints and the spine, and can decrease pain.

It’s also important to talk with your doctor about taking the appropriate medication to help reduce arthritic pain, if and when you need it.