“With prevalence higher than that of diabetes or cancer, arthritis has emerged as one of the widely spreading diseases in India, currently affecting nearly 200 million or about 15% of the population. Preventive measures and proper self-care are important for the country to bring down the burden from the disease, and to make a big difference to patients especially during the ongoing pandemic, when getting in-person consultation or medical intervention is proving to be difficult,” said Dr. Chirag Thonse, Consultant Orthopedic Surgeon, Vikram Hospital.
In a press release issued today, in connection with the Arthritis Awareness Month, being observed in May every year, across the world, Dr Thonse said that arthritis is a swelling or tenderness in one (or more) of joints. It can affect many different parts of the joint and nearly every joint in the body. The most common forms of arthritis are osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, and ankylosing spondylitis. Arthritis affects people in different ways. But the most common symptoms are pain, stiffness or reduced movement, swelling, redness, and warmth of joints. Also, the general symptoms include tiredness, weight loss, and feeling unwell.
Dr Thonse said that many people think arthritis is a normal part of getting older. “However, this is not true. It can affect people of all backgrounds and age groups. Anyone including children and young people can get arthritis. Two out of every three people with arthritis are in the age group of 15 to 60 years,” he pointed out. Stressing on the importance of early detection, Dr Thonse said, “Not many think that it’s a serious medical condition, and it needs timely medication and care so that it doesn’t aggravate further. Delay is often due to lack of awareness. Talk to your doctor if you have pain and stiffness associated with swelling, redness and warmth of your joints that begins with no apparent reason and lasts for more than a few days.”
On useful preventive measures, Dr Thonse said that diet and exercise can help prevent the incidence and progression of arthritis. Maintaining a healthy weight and engaging in physical activity reduces the risk of developing arthritis, especially osteoarthritis. Overweight women are almost four times more likely to get knee osteoarthritis than women with normal body weight.
“Physical activity can ease arthritic pain, improve function and mood, and delay the onset of disability. Even small amounts of weight loss have proven to reduce pressure on the joints significantly,” he said. “Consult your doctor or physiotherapist about the type of activity such as cycling, dancing, walking, gardening, swimming, and yoga that would be most appropriate for your condition. Exercise is crucial. Just 30 minutes of exercise five times a week helps joints stay mobile and strengthens the muscles that support your knees and hips. It’s essential to focus on low-impact activities like walking, cycling or swimming. Gentle stretching can improve your range of motion and keep your joints healthy. Try to work on simple stretches every day.”
Talking about the role of a healthy and balanced diet in prevention of arthritis, Dr Thonse said that various nutrients may help boost joint health and reduce inflammation. Foods that may help delay the onset or progression of arthritis are fruits and vegetables that provide antioxidants, low-fat dairy foods that contain calcium and vitamin D, and healthy oils such as extra virgin olive oil. These foods are a part of an anti-inflammatory diet. In contrast, foods that can increase the risk of oxidative stress, and inflammation are highly processed foods and foods that contain added sugar or salt, unhealthy fats such as trans fats and saturated fats, and red meat. Hence these foods should be avoided. Keeping blood sugar under control is also important, as high blood sugar can stiffen the tissue that supports joints and make them more sensitive to stress.
Emphasizing the need for avoiding injuries, Dr Thonse said that an injured joint is more likely to develop arthritis than one that is never injured. “Wear protective gear when playing sports and protect your joints from everyday strain using the correct technique when sitting, working, and lifting. For example, lift with your knees and hips, not your back – when picking up objects.”
Dr Thonse called for the need for the public in making healthy lifestyle choices such as not smoking, avoiding stress, getting adequate sleep, and reducing alcohol intake can improve your well-being by keeping you high on emotional wellness, self-management and motivation.
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