Healthy Living

Arthritis May Lead to Obesity

Arthritis May Lead to Obesity

Key Takeaways

  • Individuals with arthritis are at a higher risk for obesity.
  • It is difficult for individuals with arthritis to exercise, which can eventually promote obesity.
  • Doing light exercises to help with weight loss can eventually alleviate joint pain once the weight is lost.

According to a new study, many adults who have arthritis have a one commonality; they are obese. If an individual has arthritis, he or she has a 54% higher risk of obesity, as reported by Jennifer Hootman, PhD, an epidemiologist with the CDC and co-author of the study published in CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Around 50 million, out total 72.5 million obese people in America, have arthritis. The data was analyzed from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) for a six year period from 2003 to 2009.

BRFSS is a telephone survey system conducted in different states in the U.S. Data on obesity and arthritis was collected over the course of several years. In the survey, participants were asked about osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, lupus, and fibromyalgia. Osteoarthritis was found to be more common among the group, rather than  rheumatoid arthritis.

In each of the four years of data collection and analysis, obesity had a more prevalent stance among the individuals with arthritis compared to individuals who did not have arthritis. In 2003, 33.2% of individuals with arthritis were found to be obese, and only 21% of people who did not have arthritis were obese. In 2009, 35.2% of those with arthritis were obese, while only 23.6% without arthritis became obese.

There was a significant rise in the number of people who were obese and had arthritis from 2003 to 2009. This was particularly true of Puerto Rico and 14 other states such as:

  • Kentucky
  • Kansas
  • Louisiana
  • Michigan
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • New Mexico
  • South Carolina
  • South Dakota
  • Utah
  • Washington
  • West Virginia
  • Wisconsin

The correlation between arthritis and obesity is already known, as depicted by Patience White, MD, and vice president of public health for the Arthritis Foundation. The magnitude of the condition is a surprise to researchers. White suggests that the connection between the two conditions should be brought to light because many people are not aware of the severity.

Does arthritis cause obesity or does obesity lead to arthritis? According to Hootman, this could happen both ways. He adds that people who have arthritis have severe joint pain preventing them from exercising, and obesity can only make it worse. Another study displayed obesity as one of the common risk factors for arthritis.

Those who are obese and have arthritis should focus on losing small amounts of weight at a time. Losing one pound alleviates four pounds of pressure on the knee. Losing a few pounds will not only reduce pressure, but it can potentially decrease joint pain that is associated with arthritis. Once the pain subsides, one can resume regular exercise to lose more weight.

Swimming, walking, and Tai Chee are ideal activities to alleviate pain and promote weight loss. Of the three, swimming is the most ideal, as it does not pressurize the lower extremities.