They’ve made life easier, but through decades of use, your joints are bound to show some wear and tear. What might once have been an enjoyable pastime –– lobbing a tennis ball or even playing cards –– could now be a painful ordeal.
If so, you could be one of the 21 million Americans with osteoarthritis, a type of arthritis that occurs when the protective cartilage between the joints breaks down. For men, the problems start around age 45, for women usually after age 50. We can’t stop the aging process –– which does impact bones, joints and muscle mass –– but we can slow the progression of arthritis. Here’s how:
Maintain a healthy body weight. Extra weight creates extra strain on joints. One study found that losing as little as 11 pounds can lower osteoarthritis problems of the knee for women. And maintaining a healthy weight reduces tears in cartilage, the bone’s shock absorbers.
Stay active and mix it up. Do aerobic exercises several times a week, which can include fast walking, swimming and bicycling. Add resistance or weight training to build and maintain muscles, and complete the exercise package with stretching to improve flexibility. Regular exercise reduces pain and stiffness and maintains muscle strength –– a key to keeping joints healthy.
Consider supplements. One study found glucosamine and chondroitin provided pain relief to those with moderate to severe osteoarthritis. Be sure to talk with your doctor before taking any supplements.
Eat a healthy diet. Replace junk food with vegetables, whole grains, nuts and proteins. Watch portion size. By combining healthier eating and exercise, you’ll lose weight. Consume oily fish –– salmon, tuna, herring and sardines –– several times a week. The omega-3 fatty acids they contain reduce inflammation.