Prevent Osteoarthritis

Your joints are well protected because you clearly know how to take care of them. Even so, thereís always room for more knowledge about how weight and exercise and even what we wear can affect our joints. Here are the answers: 


1. High heels of all shapes Ė chunky, square, or thin as a pencil Ė put at least 22% more stress on your knees than low-heel shoes. Thatís one of the reasons women may suffer from knee osteoarthritis more often than men.


2. Studies show that distance runners donít raise their risk of osteoarthritis. And, in fact, exercise lowers the risk by strengthening the muscles that support your joints. Exercise also helps keep your weight down, which means less stress on the joints. For people who already have osteoarthritis, however, high-impact exercise like jogging can accelerate damage. Try swimming, walking and biking, and donít forget stretching exercises and strength training. Work with a physical trainer experienced with osteoarthritis to set up a safe routine.


3. Womenís knees are much more vulnerable to stress than menís, and fat does nothing to protect them. Women have a broader pelvis, which forces the leg to angle inward at the knee, making the outer sides of their knees more vulnerable to wear and tear. And women are much more likely to injure one of the main knee ligaments − the anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL. Such an injury increases the risk of osteoarthritis.


4. Being overweight increases the risk of osteoarthritis, particularly knee osteoarthritis, because the extra weight places extra stress on the joint. In one study, people who lost as little as 11 pounds cut their risk of knee osteoarthritis in half. In another study, patients who lost 15 pounds found more discomfort relief than pain relievers. If you already have osteoarthritis, simply losing weight may help relieve your pain.


5. If youíre prone to arthritis, cutting back on movements that stress your joints like kneeling, squatting and even typing can help prevent the damage from getting worse. If you must do those movements for work, ask your doctor about wearing a brace that can support your joints.


6. A new study shows that heavy smokers have 10 times the risk of knee cartilage defects as non-smokers, especially if one of their parents has knee osteoarthritis. Smoking may interact with certain genes in a way thatís a downer for your joints.


7. Resting your joints is one way to protect them, but not the best way. Rest (avoiding doing things that hurt your joints as well as moving into a stress-free zone) is trumped by exercise, which is the key way to hold onto muscle strength and flexibility. That, in turn, can help slow the progression of osteoarthritis.


8. Youíre really never too young or too old for joint replacement, depending on the degree of damage and pain you have. Although surgeons prefer that you hold onto your joint for as long as you can Ė at least until after age 55 Ė itís no longer uncommon for people in their 40s to have replacements (replacement parts now last longer.) And even people in their 80s can feel a lot more spry after a joint replacement, with only a 5% risk of complications.


9. Glucosamine and chondroitin do appear to have a protective effect, alone or together. One analysis of many studies, for example, found that glucosamine lessened pain and improved movement, as did chondroitin. Although a large government study found them, alone or in combination, no more effective than a placebo, some people did experience significant pain relief. But if they donít help you after three months, stop taking them.


10. A recent study found that doctors are half as likely to recommend knee replacement to women than to men who have equivalent symptoms. So if you feel your life is suffering because of the pain and immobility youíre experiencing, check with several surgeons before you take no for an answer.