May is National Arthritis Awareness Month, calling attention to a problem we should all be thinking about. Did you know that nearly 46 million adults in the U.S. have some form of arthritis,1 and two-thirds of them are under 65?2 However, incidence does increase with age–up by 50% after age 65.3
Arthritis is actually one of the most prevalent chronic health problems Americans face and one of the nation’s most common causes of disability.4 Arthritis–which actually consists of more than 100 different conditions affecting joints and other parts of the body–is incurable.5 The two most common forms are osteoarthritis (OA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
OA is essentially the breakdown of the cartilage that cushions your bones. When cartilage deteriorates, bones rub against each other, resulting in stiffness and escalating pain. Age, injury and obesity are all factors in its onset. Rheumatoid arthritis (RA)–which is actually an autoimmune disorder–is characterized by the inflammation of membranes around joints, resulting in pain, stiffness, and swelling.
By 2030, an estimated 67 million American adults are projected to have doctor–diagnosed arthritis.6 How can you avoid being part of this grim statistic? As with anything incurable, prevention is always your best defense. To trim your risk of developing OA–along with most other degenerative diseases–staying trim and fit is step #1.
Numerous studies also indicate that glucosamine, chondroitin, and MSM are highly beneficial in promoting healthy joints as well as helping to minimize OA symptoms/discomfort. In fact, one study showed a 50% improvement in subjects using this effective combination.7, 8 Antioxidant supplementation has also been shown to benefit both OA and RA by minimizing free-radical-induced cellular damage.9
For RA prevention, minimizing inflammation is crucial. Omega-3 essential fatty acids are powerful anti-inflammatory allies, while omega-6s are pro-inflammatory, meaning they increase inflammation levels. As the typical Western diet has a far higher ratio of omega-6s to omega-3s, boosting your intake of fish oil–rich in DHA/EPA–can tip the balance in your favor and slash your risk of many inflammation-based diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, cardiovascular disease, even cancer.10, 11
Additionally, vitamin D appears to positively influence the immune system, while insufficient levels of this hormone-like nutrient have repeatedly been linked to the development of RA.12, 13, 14
These prevention solutions are all easy, affordable and scientifically validated. And what a fortuitous coincidence: the same lifestyle choices that lower your odds of developing heart disease, cancer, diabetes and Alzheimer’s–like staying fit and trim and consuming plenty of antioxidants and omega-3s–can help keep arthritis at bay too.
1 [MMWR 2006;55(40):1089-1092. [Data Source: 2003-2005 NHIS]
2 [MMWR 2006;55(40):1089-1092. [Data Source: 2003-2005 NHIS]
3 [MMWR 2006;55(40):1089-1092. [Data Source: 2003-2005 NHIS]
4 [CDC. Prevalence of disabilities and associated health conditions among adults - United States, 1999 MMWR 2001; 50: 120 - 5.]
5 Tidsskr Nor Laegeforen. 2010 Nov 4;130(21):2136-40
6 [Arthritis & Rheumatism 2006;54(1):226-229 [Data Source: 2003 NHIS]
7 Osteoarthritis Cartilage. 2008 Nov;16(11):1277-88. Epub 2008 Apr 15
8 Rheum Dis Clin North Am. 1999 May;25(2):379-95
9 Br J Nutr. 2001 Mar;85(3):251-69
10 Nutr Rev. 2010 May;68(5):280-9
11 Altern Ther Health Med. 2010 Mar-Apr;16(2):32-40
12 Autoimmun Rev. 2010
13 J Am Coll Nutr. 2003 Aug;22(4):311-5
14 Photochem Photobiol. 2005 Nov-Dec;81(6):1267-75