Reducing risk of osteoarthritis with healthy lifestyle/good nutrition

February 17, 2022
Reducing risk of osteoarthritis with healthy lifestyle/good nutrition

By Dr G Ruslan Nazaruddin Simanjuntak, Consultant Orthopaedic, Arthritis & Sports Surgeon from ALTY Orthopaedic Hospital, Malaysia

There are many types of arthritis, and osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common form of arthritis. OA usually affects the hands, hips, and knees, when the cartilage that cushions the ends of the bones break down over time.

A study shows that one in three Malaysians over the age of 55 suffers from osteoarthritic pain.

Although OA often occurs due to old age, sometimes it is even seen among young adults who had previous joint injuries such as sports injuries or accidents. Patients with OA will exhibit symptoms such as joint pain and stiffness and have a limited range of movement.

In the 2019 National Health and Morbidity Survey in Malaysia, 50.1% of our adult population was reported to be overweight (30.4%) or obese (19.7%). It comes as no surprise that obesity can increase the risk factor for a number of health issues including osteoarthritis. Excess body weight can put stress on the joints, especially in areas such as knees, hips, foot, and ankles, leading to OA and related joint conditions.

While the causative agents of OA can be attributed to several factors, certain lifestyle changes, especially in young adults can play a role in reducing bone and joints related inflammation. Incorporating movement in your daily routine and practicing cleaner eating habits form a majority of these changes.

1)  Kickstart your workout journey with low impact exercises

Low impact exercises such as cycling, swimming and brisk walking help with our overall fitness. They can improve cardiovascular health, lose weight and gives the least aggravation to joint pain.

. Cycling – A low-impact exercise that places little stress on the joints and help improve strength, balance, and coordination. However, be mindful to not overtrain our knee to avoid cycling knee pain. A good tip is to do appropriate warm up before a ride, this will help stretch our muscle and increase stamina. Take breaks in between as well to stretch after a long ride. If you’re biking indoor or ‘spinning’ with a stationary bike, adjust the bike seat to a proper height to avoid putting unnecessary pressures to your knees.

.  Swimming – Aquatic exercises are activities that are ideal to prevent osteoarthritis and helps relieve the pain and stiffness for those who have osteoarthritis. When we swim, around 90% of our body weight is supported by the water as the buoyancy of water reduces stress and impact on our joints.

. Brisk walking – A simple and accessible form of physical activity that can be done both indoor or outdoor. A report found that less than 10 minutes of brisk walking a day can help prevent disability in people with arthritis. Before we start our walk, it is important to pick the rights shoes. Shoes that are comfortable, supportive and fits perfectly, would be ideal, and even better if it comes with cushioning that aid in shock-absorbing during activities.

2)  Incorporate good nutrition in your daily meal

To achieve an overall good heath lies in eating the right food, combined with regular exercise. A balanced, nutritious meal will help fuel the energy in our body to kickstart the day. Foods that are known to reduce inflammation in the body, is essential for people with osteoarthritis to prevent further damage to the joints.

Vitamin D & Calcium – Vitamins and minerals are beneficial for our health and Vitamin D is key to promote good bone health and boost our immune system and body muscles. Minerals such as calcium helps to build and protect your bones such as dairy, nuts, leafy greens help to build bone density and protect your bones.

.  Vitamin C – Vitamin C is important for healthy gums and healthy bones and studies have associated increased vitamin C levels with greater bone density. It is both a vitamin and an antioxidant that helps to develop cartilage, which protects the bones in knee joint. Fruits such papaya,  oranges and grapefruit, strawberries and  vegetables, such as cauliflower, broccoli, and tomato are packed with Vitamin C.

.   Healthy fats – People with OA are more likely to have high blood cholesterol, and reducing cholesterol may improve the symptoms of this disease. This does not mean that you should avoid all kinds of fatty food. The most popular healthy fats are Omega-6 and Omega-3. The consumption of Omega-3 is beneficial for our cardiovascular health, reduce joint pain and increased grip strength.  Seafood such as salmon, mackerel or sardines are packed with omega-3 fatty acids.

. Maintain a healthy weight – No doubt Malaysians are blessed with delicious food, but we should be mindful of what we put in our body. Weight plays a huge role in contributing in OA, as the excess body weight not just increase the strain on joints, but also causes inflammation which can worsen the symptoms. This can be a barrier for us to properly function and perform daily task when our body mobility is limited. Losing weight not just improve our joint health, but also prevent non communicable diseases (NCDs) such as diabetes and heart attack.

3) Consult your doctor

People are often unsure when they need an orthopaedic surgeon. If you have been feeling a prolonged pain, tenderness or stiffness in one or more joints, or other symptoms such as difficulty when doing daily activities, clicking or cracking sound when you walk, do not delay treatment and seek medical attention to avoid permanent joint damage and other serious health issues. It is a myth that OA only happens in old people. Young adults who had prior incidents such as sports injury and genetic factor are prone to the disease. It is best to consult a doctor, especially those with OA, on a diet plan or exercise regime that suits your condition.

Overall, we should practice a healthy active lifestyle especially in times of a pandemic by keeping ourselves active and through good nutrition. Patients with osteoarthritis may often feel restrained from performing certain simple day to day task such as walking up and down the stairs due to knee pain. Hence exercise regularly and consume healthy diet improve our body mobility and general health.

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