By Laura Bollinger, RDN
Do you know which disease or condition is the leading cause of disabilities in the United States?1 It affects approximately one in every four adults. With such high rates of occurrence, it is likely that you or someone close to you is affected by it. Can you guess what this health diagnosis might be?
It may surprise you to find out it is arthritis. The month of May is designated Arthritis Awareness Month to bring attention to this prevalent problem. In addition to awareness, several organizations2 offer strategies to prevent and manage the chronic pain this condition can cause.
An arthritis diagnosis may feel like a huge limitation. Fortunately, there are many things that we can do through self-management to reduce limitations. As with any diagnosis, work with your healthcare professional to determine the best plan of care that works with your whole health profile. Part of that plan of care should include:
Nutrient-dense eating means eating mostly vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains, and nuts and seeds. These foods provide nutrients the body needs and, with the exception of nuts and seeds, are relatively low in calories. Vegetables and fruits, in particular, are helpful in reducing arthritis inflammation.
According to the American College of Sports Medicine3, regular physical activity supports healthy weight loss and can help reduce arthritis symptoms. Consider:
- Stretching exercises to improve joint mobility and flexibility to reduce stiffness in arthritis-affected joints.
- Working with a fitness professional that specializes in training clients with arthritis for best results. They can also direct you to exercises that can be done without pain and steer you away from exercises that are likely to cause pain.
Always talk to your healthcare provider before beginning an exercise program.
Lack of sleep can lead to fatigue, reducing our ability to make healthy meal choices and make exercise a priority. Poor sleep habits may also worsen arthritis symptoms. Develop a good sleep routine of winding down before bed and keeping consistent sleep times.
Self-Monitoring to Find Patterns
Arthritis symptoms may seem to come and go without any real reason. By regularly monitoring your symptoms (such as pain level, stiffness, or fatigue) along with other factors (such as diet, exercise, and medications), you and your doctor may be able to identify patterns that are triggering your symptoms. By identifying these triggers, you can then take steps to prevent many of your symptoms. By taking good care of your body, you can live a vibrant active life – even with arthritis.
2For more information, check out these recommended resources:
- Arthritis Foundation: Walk With Ease
- Fit & Strong
- Active Living Every Day
- Arthritis Management through Parks and Recreation