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Arthritis is an inflammatory condition that is characterized by inflammation of joints. While there are several non-modifiable risk factors for arthritis, this article outlines things you can do to prevent development of arthritis.

Arthritis is an inflammatory condition that is characterized by the swelling of joints. There are more than a 100 different subtypes of arthritis, with the most common ones being osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Scientists and researchers are still not sure exactly why arthritis develops and what exactly can be done to prevent the disease.

There are some risk factors for arthritis that cannot be changed at all, such as gender (women are more likely get arthritis) and genetics. Many patients with arthritis have a family history of disease as they share similar genetics, such as the presence of a gene called HLA-B27. While there is really no way to prevent arthritis from ever developing, there are certain things people can do to reduce the risk of arthritis and delay the onset of certain subtypes of the disease.

These are the things you can do to prevent the onset of arthritis.

Maintain a healthy weight

This is important in specific subtypes of arthritis such as osteoarthritis — the most common subtype. Scientists and doctors believe that losing weight or maintaining a healthy weight is actually the best way to avoid the development of osteoarthritis as extra weight on the body adds extra pressure and stress on the joints and bones. Therefore, if you are overweight, you should change your diet and start exercising in order to prevent the development of osteoarthritis.

Having an anti-inflammatory diet

Arthritis is, at heart, characterized by the inflammation of joints. Inflammation is a natural process the immune system sets in motion as a response to a threat to our health. In the case of autoimmune disease such as arthritis, the threat that our immune system perceives is the body itself. There are some foods that are known to have anti-inflammatory properties — such as vegetables, fruits, nuts and fish. Inflammatory foods include those with lots of sugar. Therefore, eating more anti-inflammatory foods and eating fewer inflammatory foods can help avoid the onset of inflammation.

Quit smoking and/or drinking

One of the greatest positive changes you can make to your lifestyle to reduce the risk of several different diseases, including arthritis, is quitting smoking. Studies have shown that people who smoke are more likely to develop several subtypes of arthritis, including rheumatoid arthritis, compared to people who don’t smoke. Additionally, people who are susceptible to developing rheumatoid arthritis due to a family history are more likely to develop the disease if they smoke. Quitting drinking is known to help reduce the risk of developing gout.

Have a healthy gut microbiome

Having a balanced bacterial population in the gut plays an important role in reducing pain and inflammation across a variety of diseases, including arthritis. A healthy gut bacterial population helps protect your intestinal lining and stops substances in the gut from crossing into the blood stream. When this happens, a condition known as leaky gut syndrome develops and this can cause the immune system to be triggered and go haywire. As arthritis is an autoimmune condition, which means that it develops because the immune system attacks normal, healthy tissue, one of the ways to prevent it is by having healthy gut bacteria. This can be achieved by taking probiotics as a supplement or eating yogurt with probiotics.

Yoga or Pilates

One of the ways to avoid developing osteoarthritis, which is also known as the wear and tear arthritis, is to keep your muscles and joints flexible. This can be achieved through exercises such as yoga or Pilates. Another option for similar exercises is martial arts or swimming, as these exercises require you to use your full range of motion and will help strengthen the muscles around your joints.

Lifting weights

One of the best things you can do for your joints and to avoid arthritis is making the muscles around the joints stronger. Having stronger joints generally means that your joints are healthier. This can be done very effectively through lifting weights. Additionally, having greater muscle mass has been shown to be beneficial in preventing the onset of osteoarthritis and improve any pain.

Gentle stretching

Similar to yoga, other programs that encourage gentle stretching of the limbs and the joints, such as tai chi, have been shown to be very beneficial for people in terms of maintaining range of motion of joints and making bones stronger. When doing an exercise like tai chi, it is important to keep in mind to stretch your hands as that is one of the most common places people develop arthritis.

Physical therapy

When a person is a diagnosed with arthritis, one of the first things that doctors will recommend is to undergo physical therapy. Physical therapists are professionals who can help teach you strategies to keep your joints healthy and working. If you are in a profession that involves repetitive movement (such as doing manual labor in a factory) or play a lot of sports, it might be a good idea to work with a physical therapist early on to make sure your injuries don’t proceed to a point of arthritis.

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  • Lahiri, Manjari, et al. "Modifiable risk factors for RA: prevention, better than cure?." Rheumatology 51.3 (2011): 499-512.
  • Photo courtesy of SteadyHealth

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