The holidays can be full of fun and good cheer, but it can also usher in extra health risks if you have arthritis. Try these tips to avoid them.
Good-for-you foods provide a vast spectrum of nutrients important to battling arthritis inflammation, strengthening bones, fighting disease and generally helping you feel your best. So why not load up on vitamin and mineral supplements to make sure you’re getting enough of these nutrients? Food trumps supplements for several important reasons:
If you have arthritis or take medications to treat it, a cough, fever or fatigue may be signs of infection. That’s because you may be more vulnerable to infections than the general population, says Dee Dee Wu, MD, a rheumatologist at the Hospital for Special Surgery in Paramus, New Jersey. Plus, infections can become serious, so treating them promptly is important.
Question to the Doctor: I have bone-on-bone arthritis in both knees. I don’t want surgery. I am 70 years old and overweight, and I can’t exercise because of my knees. All I want is my life back. Can you give me some advice?
Answer: Weight loss isn’t easy, but it will reduce pressure on your joints, give you more energy and make you feel better overall. Consider exercise options like gentle swimming, water aerobics and upper body exercises that won’t put pressure on your aching knees.
Ask your doctor about nonsurgical treatments to reduce pain like cognitive behavioral therapy, joint injections and acupuncture. A referral to a physical therapist could introduce lifestyle modifications and assistive devices to reduce pain and increase function.
Also, talk with your doctor about why you don’t want surgery. Learning more about the process, risks and benefits may ease your concerns and make it a more attractive option for you.
David Pisetsky, MD, rheumatologist, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, N.C.
Are you trying to lose weight to ease pressure on your joints and get healthier overall? Are you having trouble making progress?
It’s not just what you eat, but how you eat that can undermine your weight loss. “Sometimes you feel like you’re doing all of the right things and not seeing results,” says registered dietitian Erin Palinski-Wade, author of Belly Fat Diet for Dummies (John Wiley & Sons, 2012). “The more aware you are of the unexpected things that can sabotage your diet, the more successful you’ll be.”
Watch out for these diet traps.
When you need a pick-me-up, help relaxing after a hard day or even a distraction from pain while working on a project, turn on some music.
Music activates your limbic system, the “emotional brain,” which controls emotions, memories and the senses. Music triggers the release of chemicals that can influence your sleep cycles, moods and other factors that contribute to a range of physical and emotional benefits.
Until recently, spondyloarthritis (spon-di-low-ar-THRI-tis) didn’t receive much attention. It’s now generating more interest, in part because it’s diagnosed more often and there are better ways to treat it, says rheumatologist Philip Mease, MD, a professor at the University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle.
The pressure of coping with arthritis can ratchet up stress and anxiety – a condition that affects as many as 1 in 3 people with arthritis. And that, in turn, can worsen the symptoms of chronic diseases and contribute to a host of other problems.
“When we are stressed or perceive a threat, our body responds with physiologic responses that prepare us to fight or escape the enemy,” says Rudy Nydegger, PhD, a clinical psychologist and professor emeritus at Union Graduate College in Schenectady, N.Y. “Our heart rate and breathing speed up, our muscles tense and blood flow to the brain increases, putting us in a state of high awareness.” That can help protect you if the enemy is an attacking tiger and the threat ends quickly. But when ongoing stress leads to anxiety (excessive worry), it can result in a heightened awareness of symptoms – for instance, pain feels worse – as well as increased susceptibility to infection and risk of other health problems, including heart disease. Anxiety can have indirect health impacts, too, if it leads to inactivity, interferes with sleep or leads you to eat unhealthy foods for comfort.
“Clean eating means different things to different people, and the “eat clean” catchphrase can be misinterpreted. “It implies that anything but the most pristine food is bad for us,” says registered dietitian Kim Larson, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, “but none of us eats a perfect diet.” But while the trend and the catchphrase are fairly new, the philosophy is not, and experts generally agree on the basics: Eating a diet of mostly whole, unprocessed foods and avoiding their highly refined, processed counterparts promotes health and well-being and is a good foundation for an arthritis diet. Some interpretations emphasize organic foods, avoiding genetically modified ingredients, eating more frequent, smaller meals, or “detoxing” with so-called “cleanses.” Here are some clean-eating principles dietitians say you can get behind – or skip.
Twenty-eight bones, 29 joints and an intricate network of ligaments, tendons and nerves in your hands make it possible to button a shirt, braid hair, slice a steak or give a thumbs-up. But when arthritis or a related condition affects the hands, the simplest tasks can be painful. Dori Neill Cage, MD, an orthopedic hand surgeon in San Diego, lists some common arthritis-related problems that affect the hands.