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Living with arthritis

Posted July 16, 2014 in Advice Column, Windsor Heights

With more than 100 forms of arthritis and other rheumatic diseases, approximately 52.5 million U.S. adults, 49.7 percent of which are aged 65 or older, struggle to manage daily tasks. Arthritis is currently the most common cause of disability in the U.S. and can prevent seniors from accomplishing the simplest tasks. While there is no cure, there are many coping strategies for managing arthritis and accompanying conditions.

• Maintain optimal weight and exercise. Carrying extra weight creates additional stress and pain on joints that are already inflamed with arthritis. Exercise, which may be painful initially but will actually decrease pain over time, not only helps keep the weight down but also keeps the joints moving freely.

Exercise also releases endorphins, which can help stave off bouts of depression and release anxiety. Both maintaining weight and exercising help to manage other chronic conditions such as diabetes and heart disease. Before beginning a program of exercise, seniors should speak with a medical professional.

• Practice good nutritional habits. Certain foods have been shown to reduce inflammation associated with arthritis as well as help maintain a healthy weight. Fish, at least twice a week, can reduce joint swelling, pain and stiffness. Studies of rheumatoid arthritis patients show that adding fish oil supplements to their daily diets reduced arthritis symptoms to the degree that some patients were able to stop taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.

Nuts and seeds, loaded with inflammation-fighting monounsaturated fat and fruits and vegetables, especially dark, leafy green vegetables that are high in antioxidants, also reduce arthritis symptoms. For maximum results, seniors should consume 1.5 ounces of nuts and at least nine servings of fruits and vegetable daily. Other foods that can help reduce pain are extra virgin olive oil (two to three tablespoons daily) and beans (at least two cups weekly). Vitamins A, C, D, E, K, and the B vitamins are also beneficial for reducing flare-ups.

• Manage stress. Stress triggers the release of chemicals, such as cortisol, in the brain that can trigger flare-ups and increase the chances that the arthritis sufferer will develop other chronic conditions such as heart disease, anxiety and depression. Staying active, doing deep breathing exercise, venting through friends or writing in a journal can help reduce stress, thereby reducing pain, inflammation and the risks of developing other conditions.

References: Arthritis Foundation. (n.d.). What you can do.

Bret S. Stetka, MD, Nathan Wei, AB, MD (March 22, 2013). Arthritis, Then and Now. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (March 17, 2014).

Arthritis-Related Statistics. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. (n.d.). Living With Arthritis: Easy-to-Read Information for Patients and Families.

Information provided by Clint Rogers, Comfort Keepers, 1300 Metro East Drive, Suite 128, Pleasant Hill, 515-243-0011.


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