With more than 100 different types of arthritis and about 25% of the American adult population suffering from at least one of them, arthritis seems like an inevitable disease. But there are a few habits and circumstances you can change that will lower your chances of experiencing arthritis.At Millennium Park Medical Associates in The Loop and Lakeview communities of Chicago, Illinois, Dr. Farah Khan and our team help our patients prevent arthritis whenever possible, and we offer effective treatments if and when the joint disease attacks.Here’s a closer look at the factors that put you at risk for arthritis so you can gauge your susceptibility and take steps to keep arthritis at bay.
Will I get arthritis?
Arthritis is an inflammatory condition that attacks your joints. Some types are caused by long-term wear and tear, some by an autoimmune condition, and others by viruses. Sometimes arthritis results from other conditions, such as skin psoriasis or a buildup of uric acid in the joints. Whatever the cause, arthritis can be very painful, and it may limit your mobility and dexterity.
Considering that millions of people in every age group and every ethnic background are vulnerable to arthritis, it’s natural to wonder if you’re destined to get it, too. While there’s no way to predict with certainty who will get arthritis and who won’t, we can tell you if you’re at high or low risk for the disease by taking a look at your medical history and your current lifestyle.
Controllable arthritis risk factors
There are certain habits, behaviors, and choices you make every day that can put you at greater risk for developing arthritis.
Tobacco smoke is a major player in arthritis, especially rheumatoid arthritis (RA), which is an autoimmune disease. Because smoking increases the amount of cytokines (inflammatory proteins) in your blood, the habit puts you at a higher risk of developing RA. Smoking also exacerbates any type of arthritis you already have, because it harms your connective tissues, bones, and joints.
The more you weigh, the more stress your joints are under, which means that the protective cartilage breaks down faster. Osteoarthritis develops when this cartilage wears away and your bones rub together painfully, causing severe inflammation and stiffness. Losing weight helps relieve this pressure and can ward off arthritis, or at least delay it for a while.
If you want to prevent arthritis, do your best to protect your joints throughout your life. Start by ensuring that the surrounding muscles are strong enough to support your joints. Also, avoid excessive and repetitive stress, such as constant kneeling and bending, as these activities can damage your joints.
Accidental injuries aren’t necessarily controllable, but when you realize that an injured joint is likely to develop arthritis, it’s in your best interest to educate yourself about joint injury risk.
If your job or hobby requires you to type all day, bend and lift, or swing a golf club, be aware of potential hazards and correct them when you can. Remove things that can cause falls, make sure your workstation is ergonomically sound, and practice your sports and hobbies using proper technique that protects your joints.
Uncontrollable arthritis risk factors
Some factors put you at risk for arthritis, and there’s nothing you can do about them. But knowing you’re vulnerable can motivate you to take extra precautions to keep your joints safe.
Your genetic makeup may predispose you to a life with arthritis. Specifically, people with class II genotypes called human leukocyte antigens are more likely to develop RA, ankylosing spondylitis, and systemic lupus. Genetic testing can reveal whether you have these genes.
The longer you live, the more your body parts break down, and that includes your joints. There’s nothing you can do about aging, but you can do a lot to protect your joints as you do. Eating a healthy diet, staying well-hydrated, and exercising regularly go a long way in keeping your joints strong and healthy as you age.
Women tend to develop arthritis more than men. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 26% of women in the United States report having doctor-diagnosed arthritis, compared to only about 19% of men. However, one type of arthritis that often attacks the joint of the big toe — gout — tends to favor men.
Arthritis can’t be cured, but Dr. Khan recommends the following to minimize your pain, slow or stop joint damage, and help you live comfortably despite your arthritis:
- Physical activity
- Pain medication
- Losing weight
- Avoiding high-impact and repetitive stress
- Quitting smoking
She may also recommend therapies based on complementary and alternative medicine.
To learn more about arthritis risk factors and treatments, contact us at either of our Chicago-area locations or book a consultation online today.