5 ways to improve your joint health
If your joints are working well you may not think about them too much - but taking control of your joint health is important for keeping them strong healthy and pain-free. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that arthritis a condition that causes pain swelling and stiffness in your joints is the most common cause of disability in the United States. Fortunately many of the best ways to improve your joint health and reduce your risk of debilitating stiffness and pain are the same lifestyle changes that you may be considering for your general health. Here are five of the best things you can do.
- Be active. Regular exercise improves your joint function delays disability and decreases pain in people with arthritis. To maximize joint health the CDC suggests getting 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise at least five days a week. Dr. Mario Lee an orthopedic surgeon at Reid Orthopedic Center suggests that swimming and brisk walks are the best exercises for your hips knees and lower back. These low-impact exercises put less stress on your joints than higher-impact workouts. Dr. Lee compares low-impact and high-impact exercise on your joints to "a car that is driven only on the highway versus one that is driven in the city. Tires on the highway-driven car will last much longer than [those on] the one that has to go over potholes and stop-and-go traffic in the city." Other forms of exercise that are easy on your joints include cycling stretching and light weightlifting according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Because some forms of exercise can put more stress on your joints always chat with your doctor before beginning a new exercise program.
- Maintain a healthy weight. If you're overweight or obese you're putting extra stress on your joints - especially your knees - which increases your risk of developing osteoarthritis and other joint disorders. Harvard Health Publications reports that gaining weight also increases inflammation which can contribute to joint problems in your hands and knees.
According to the CDC losing just 11 pounds lowers your risk of knee osteoarthritis and a weight loss of 5 percent can reduce disability and pain. Boosting your physical activity drinking water before meals avoiding sugary drinks eating plenty of protein and vegetables and reducing your overall caloric intake are all healthy ways to shed pounds if you're overweight or obese. If you're not currently active Dr. Lee suggests that going for a walk after dinner is a good place to start.
- Boost your vitamin E and omega-3 fatty acid intake. Getting plenty of these nutrients is important for joint health according to MedlinePlus and you can find them in a wide variety of foods. Snack on nuts and seeds such as walnuts and pumpkin seeds. Sprinkle flax seeds on yogurt oatmeal and salads. Cook with canola or sunflower oil instead of using butter. Incorporate walnut pumpkin seed or hemp oils into sauces or low-heat baking recipes or lightly saute foods in these oils. Aim to eat two servings of omega-3-rich fish - such as salmon sardines tuna lake trout herring or anchovies - each week.
- Quit smoking. In addition to the many other good reasons to quit smoking a study published in Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases found that smoking is a preventable risk factor for developing rheumatoid arthritis - and that the more you smoke the higher your risk is.
- Get plenty of sleep. Getting a good night's rest is a key component of maintaining healthy joints. MedlinePlus also notes that if you have arthritis sleeping eight to 10 hours at night and taking naps during the day can help you recover from joint flare-ups more quickly. Unfortunately many Americans don't get as much sleep as they need. If you're one of them setting a regular bedtime can help you make sure you meet your sleep requirements.
It may seem like a tall order to worry about caring for your joints in addition to any other health concerns you may have but Dr. Lee notes that in general anything that benefits your overall health is also beneficial for your joints.
Read more: Is the weather to blame for your joint pain?
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