Arthritis is a very common inflammatory disorder that afflicts many people worldwide. Cold months can be especially harsh, as dipping temperature can lead to a surge in cases of arthritis, besides flaring up pain, swelling, inflammation, and stiffness of the joints.
The alarming news though is that arthritis is no longer an old age disease, but is in fact getting younger by the day.
Earlier people wouldn’t even begin worrying about it until they reached their 60’s but today people as young at in their twenties and thirties are displaying arthritic symptoms, and degeneration of joints has now started happening even with people just in their 20s.
And what is scary is that arthritis fuelled by lifestyle mistakes (as opposed to family history or injury) is on a rise.
What Is Fuelling This Epidemic in the Young People?
Obesity is a major cause. Faulty lifestyle where wrong eating and lack of exercise dominate the way we live these days, and that is another big factor.
Similarly, self medication can be harmful. Often people resort to alternative therapies for pain relief, which can cause more harm than good, as some of the medicines might contain steroids.
Another problem is that people ignore symptoms for a long time thinking that they are safe as they are young. But the fact is that till the symptoms are mild to moderate, medical intervention and lifestyle changes can really help.
In severe cases, however surgical intervention and joint replacement is the last resort left.
There is need to create awareness about arthritis so that patients become aware of the risk factors, causative reasons and also learn to recognise the symptoms in time, so that prevention can happen at the right time.
How To Prevent It
Ultimately, the best defence against arthritis is a healthy lifestyle. How we eat, exercise, sleep, manage stress, and whether we smoke or drink can have a tremendous influence on the health of your joints.
So be careful, and overhaul your lifestyle to make it arthritis resistant.
Excess weight is one of the biggest risk factors for osteoarthritis – and for good reason.
Extra pounds put additional pressure on weight-bearing joints, such as the hips and knees.
That is why staying as near your optimum weight as possible is thus extremely important.
Exercising regularly to strengthen muscles and increase flexibility of the joints helps. But it is important to exercise right.
Balancing low-impact exercises with high impact activities to strengthen the muscles will help protect your joints.
Diabetes that affects the body's ability to regulate blood sugar (glucose), is a significant risk factor for osteoarthritis as it fuels inflammation in the body, which leads to loss of cartilage in the joints.
So keeping a check on the blood sugar levels is an important preventive tool.
Eating right is important as deficiencies have a role to play too. Lack of enough calcium and antioxidants and micronutrients from fresh fruits leads to weak cartilage, resulting in cartilage wear out with even little bit of excess weight.
Avoid fad diets
These often advocate excess protein intake which may lead to Uric Acid Arthropathy. Here uric acid gets deposited in the joints leading to inflammation of the joints.
Focus on vitamin D
This vitamin helps the body absorb calcium, needed to build strong bones, so its deficient can lead thin, soft and brittle bones, and higher risk for arthritis.
Aim for an anti-inflammatory diet
Arthritis can be often be traced to high level of inflammation in our body. So follow the food rules that can help put a lid on inflammation.
Keep the body alkaline by eating an alkalising diet - more vegetables and fruits.
Also avoid acidic foods like caffeine, alcohol, processed foods, sugars, refined flours and excess animal products (plus pollution and stress).
Eat lots of fibre as it cuts inflammation by helping lower C-reactive protein (CRP) levels in the blood, and by feeding good bacteria in the gut. Focus on fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
Avoid junk and processed foods
Most are loaded with high-fructose corn syrup, trans fats and have too much sodium; all fester inflammation in the body.
Cut sugar consciously
It severely suppresses the immune system making us vulnerable to inflammatory disorders.
Add anti-inflammatory herbs and spices like turmeric, ginger and cinnamon to the diet liberally to boost antioxidants intake; they help tame inflammation.
Eat good fats
Correct the omega 3 - omega 6 fatty acids ratio. Omega-3 suppresses inflammatory chemicals in the body, whereas too much omega 6 does the opposite.
Score omega 3 via fatty fish (salmon, mackerel), flax seeds and walnuts. To bring omega 6 down eat less meat, and reduce refined oils consumption.
Make your cuppa green. It is rich in a compound called EGCG that helps cuts inflammation by reducing production of pro-inflammatory compound cytokine in the body.
Have omega-3 fatty acids to lower inflammation in the joints. Add avocado, flaxseeds, walnuts, and fish to the diet.
There are other reasons too. Wrong and long sitting hours: Wrong posture at work leads to computer related injuries (CRY), which put a lot of stress on joints (lower back, neck and knees) leading to arthritis in these areas; faulty eating.
Don’t discount arthritis just because you are on the left hand side of thirties, as more and more young women and even men are getting afflicted with arthritis today.
Get checked if pain or stiffness persists for more than a week.
Early detection (through a simple X-ray and lab tests) is helpful as disease can then be managed better, there is no cure for arthritis.
The right thing to do is to get checked in time and opt for the right intervention. And even better is following an arthritis prevention lifestyle.
(Kavita Devgan is a nutritionist, weight management consultant, and health writer based in Delhi. She is the author of The Don't Diet Plan: A no-nonsense guide to weight loss, Fix it with Food, Ultimate Grandmother Hacks, and Don’t Diet! 50 Habits of Thin People.)