Rheumatoid arthritis is caused by an autoimmune disorder. There is no specific reason for this disarray in the immune system, and this is why it is difficult to list preventive measures. However, there are some ways to reduce the chances of occurrence of rheumatoid arthritis. Moreover, there are certain ways to further slow down the onset of arthritis and flare-ups. Maintaining the mobility and flexibility of the joints is very important.
Risk Factors for developing Rheumatoid Arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis is a painful and debilitating condition. Scientists still have no clear idea of the causes of this disease. Hence, a complete cure is not yet available. But understanding risk factors can help you take precautionary measures to reduce your risk and delay potential symptoms.
Some risk factors cannot be avoided, such as being female and having a family history of rheumatoid arthritis. However, these are risks that merely make acquiring the condition a possibility, not a certainty:
- Family History – Having a close family member with the disease may increase your risk, but does not make developing it a foregone conclusion.
- Age - Although it can occur at any age, it most commonly occurs between the ages of 40-60.
While the foregoing risk factors cannot be helped, there are, however, risk factors that can be reduced or stopped, thus delaying the onset of the disease or preventing it from happening altogether.
Here is a roundup of these risks:
- Smoking - A family history of rheumatoid disease coupled with smoking significantly increases the risk of rheumatoid arthritis. Smoking also intensifies the severity of the disease.
- Obesity - People who are overweight, especially women, are at higher risk for rheumatoid arthritis.
The following may prove helpful in preventing rheumatoid arthritis:
- Early diagnosis - When autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis are diagnosed in the early stages and treated accordingly, then the disease can go into remission. According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), early treatment can delay or reduce the chances of serious complications of arthritis like flare-ups, depression, and heart problems. Early treatment also reduces bone and cartilage damage.
- Exercise - As we all know, exercise is the best preventive method for all diseases. Daily moderate exercises help us stay fit, improve blood circulation, stimulate our immune system, and prevent diseases. Exercises are most important for a healthy heart. It has been stated by the CDC that physical activity had reduced the chances of arthritis among old men and women by 47%.
A statistical study shows that about 31% of obese people in the United States are diagnosed with arthritis. Physical activity helps obese people lose weight, which also helps reduce the chances of rheumatoid arthritis.
There are three kinds of exercises that should be performed: Endurance exercises, stretching exercises, and exercises that maintain the range of motions in the joints. However, people already diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis should be careful when choosing the type of workout to do, because heavy exercises can increase the risk of heart failure. It is always advisable to talk to a rheumatologist or physiotherapist to plan out a schedule for exercises and recommend the type of exercises one should do.
Swimming is particularly helpful as it exercises the body without placing any stress on the joints.
- Not smoking - Several studies have shown that smoking plays a very important role as a causative factor of rheumatoid arthritis. A smoker has twice the chances of acquiring the disease. However, it is one of those risk factors that can be controlled. It is a bit difficult to quit smoking, but a period of some distress is worth the better life that is ahead. There are a number of rehabilitation programs that can help one quit smoking with less withdrawal symptoms. Non-smokers should continue being such and not come under someone else’s influence. Smoking is dangerous not only with respect to the risk of rheumatoid arthritis but also that of many other diseases. Some of the deadliest diseases like lung cancer, atherosclerosis, and high blood pressure can be caused by smoking. In rheumatoid arthritis, while smoking is not the direct cause, the habit does increase the risk and symptoms.
- Healthy eating - People who eat healthy stay healthy. This is true with respect to the risk for rheumatoid arthritis as well. Including more vegetable proteins and more essential nutrients and decreasing fats will help prevent disturbances in the immune system. Moreover, foods like fish oil, plant oil, and turmeric will help improve health with their anti-inflammatory properties.
Increase fiber intake- Eating more fiber-rich foods will help reduce inflammation.
- Yoga - It is an ancient Indian practice combining mental, physical, and spiritual exercises. It also includes breathing and stretching exercises. It has proven its effects against many diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis.
- A supplement for rheumatoid arthritis - Using calcium and Vitamin D is useful in the prevention of osteoarthritis in rheumatoid arthritis sufferers.
- Rest – Make sure that you get enough rest every day. It is important to keep a balance and make adequate daily rest a priority to give your body enough downtime.
Foods To Be Taken in Moderation
There is no hard and fast rule on what the best diet for rheumatoid arthritis is. However, if you have minor symptoms, then trigger foods to avoid are:
- Sugars – Limiting sugar in the diet will help control weight, which would otherwise put stress on your joints.
- Red meats – The high content of saturated fats in red meat could increase inflammation and weight gain. Replacing it with lean meat would be the option.
- Alcohol – The relation between alcohol consumption and rheumatoid arthritis is not clear. However, moderation is key.
- Fried food- Chemicals in fried food can increase inflammation; hence, eat less of it.
- Processed food- Ready-to-eat food that requires minimum cooking is loaded with chemicals that cause inflammation. Read the instructions labels to make sure you are not consuming food that may exacerbate your condition.
The Last Word
Forewarned is forearmed. Avoid risk factors and maintain a healthy lifestyle to keep rheumatoid arthritis at bay.