Arthritis is a debilitating condition that impacts an alarming number of seniors across the country. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explained that osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis and that 1 in 2 adults over the age of 85 will experience its symptoms. However, it's important that health professionals remind patients that the disease is avoidable when the right preventative measures are taken. For example, new research shows that there are certain everyday habits that can increase one's risk of developing arthritis.
Osteoarthritis occurs when the cartilage is no longer strong enough to act like a cushion between the joints due to wear and tear - often a result of old age. The CDC noted that in 2005, approximately 27 million adults were diagnosed with the condition and impacted by the side effects, which include pain and swelling that make performing daily activities challenging. Educating patients on these facts will help them know when to seek assistance and understand the impact that the disease has.
The Arthritis Foundation explained that in addition to poor lifestyle choices like being inactive, there are certain tasks that people frequently do that may play a role in causing unhealthy joints. Here are a few activities that health professionals can discuss with patients to ensure they and anyone that provides them support, such as a senior caregiver, know how to prevent osteoarthritis and other forms of arthritis.
1. Knuckle cracking
Over the years, there has been a lot of debate as to whether chronic knuckle cracking can increase people's risk of arthritis. Explain to patients that the snapping sound that occurs when knuckles are cracked is the result of bubbles bursting in the fluid, called synovial fluid, that helps the joints stay lubricated and avoid friction with cartilage, according to Harvard Health Publication. One study conducted by researchers in 2011 examined the X-rays of over 200 older adults. It was one of many studies that showed a firm connection between knuckle cracking and arthritis. Although there is no concrete evidence that cracking knuckles will increase the likelihood of developing arthritis, it does make it harder to grip things and can cause hands to swell. Informing patients of these side effects may be the push they need to quit the habit.
The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases noted that while smoking is a well-known risk factor for conditions like heart disease and lung cancer, it's also essential to remind seniors that it can also impact bone and joint health. This is particularly true for older adults with genetic risks of rheumatoid arthritis, as they have a significantly higher chance of developing the condition if they smoke. Rheumatologist Alan Friedman, M.D., said that smoking also has the potential to inhibit drugs that are commonly used to treat RA from alleviating symptoms, according to Everyday Health. This is an important point to get across to patients who smoke while taking medication for RA, as their conditions may worsen if they aren't getting the help they need from their medications.
3. Texting and typing
Explain to patients that texting and frequent typing can cause wear and tear to joints in the hands. These activities put stress on the joints, especially for those who have previously been diagnosed with a form of arthritis. The Arthritis Society pointed out that recovering from arthritis can be challenging when seniors are performing activities like texting and typing, which don't allow the impacted areas time to recover, making arthritis worse. Advise older adults with arthritis to steer clear of these tasks for a while. This will reduce their chances of getting the disease and help them recover if they already have it.