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Controllable Risk Factors
Your weight. Did you know that every time you take a step, the force on your knees and hips equals two to three times your body weight? Climbing down steps will increase the pressure on your knees and hips by six-fold—that's 900 pounds of pressure for a person who weights just 150 pounds. Your risk of developing osteoarthritis generally increases with the amount of weight that your joints have to bear. Once osteoarthritis has developed, being overweight exacerbates the condition. Your SparkDiet can help you lose the extra pounds safely and permanently.
Your activity level. You are more likely to develop osteoarthritis if you are physically inactive or physically overactive. A lack of exercise weakens muscles and bones, decreasing flexibility and support at the joints, which eventually leads to pain and stiffness. At the same time, over-exercising can also be harmful to the joints. Stick with moderate exercise to strengthen the joints, decrease pain and improve range of motion. Read Managing Arthritis with Exercise to get started.
Your strength level. If the muscles surrounding your joints are weak (the thigh muscles above the knee, for example), then you are more prone to developing osteoarthritis in those joints. Strength training can help you build muscle, which strengthens your joints and provides protection against osteoarthritis. If you already have osteoarthritis, a physical therapist can assess your muscle strength, flexibility and joint stability and recommend different exercises for you.
Your diet. A diet low in omega-3 fatty acids (the good-for-you fats, from foods like flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds, hempseeds, and salmon) and high in unhealthy fats (corn, safflower and cottonseed oils, fatty meats, high-fat dairy products, saturated fat and trans fats) may contribute to your risk of developing osteoarthritis. Healthy omega-3's reduce joint inflammation while unhealthy fats can increase it. Read Foods that Fight Osteoarthritis for more information.
If you experience joint pain, stiffness and/or swelling for more than two weeks, make an appointment to see your doctor, as early diagnosis can help minimize the pain and disability of osteoarthritis. The two of you can develop a plan that includes a combination of diet and exercise changes, weight loss, physical therapy, and medication.
Becky is a registered and licensed dietitian with almost 20 years of experience. Through her company, An Ounce of Prevention, she makes nutrition principles practical, easy to apply and fun. See all of Becky's articles.
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