I was recently asked this question and it occurred to me that a better question might be: Can osteoarthritis be prevented, and, if so, how? Osteoarthritis is also sometimes referred to as "wear-and-tear" arthritis. It involves a wearing down over time of the cartilage in the joints. Some people would say that it is a part of aging and "cannot be prevented." I would beg to differ and pose another question: Can clogged arteries be prevented? Most cardiologists would say yes. That is why we are instructed to eat low-fat foods, exercise, and occasionally take supplements and even medications. This is all done to prevent the arteries from becoming clogged.
Just as we strive to prevent arteries from becoming clogged with cholesterol, we can strive to prevent joints from developing osteoarthritis. Of course, with time there is a natural pull towards things breaking down. Even a Ferrari may start to sputter eventually. However, that doesn't mean that we can't take steps to prevent it. And it doesn't mean we can't be very successful.
There is no secret to preventing osteoarthritis, or the pain that goes along with it. The best chance to prevent osteoarthritis involves a combination of (1) an anti-inflammatory diet, (2) exercise, (3) maintaining a healthy body weight, and often (4) appropriate supplementation. Let's focus on the first three for now.
What we eat has a very real impact on our bodies and how they develop, react, and respond. Eating a diet that helps your body fight inflammation helps keep your joints and surrounding muscles healthy and pain-free. An anti-inflammatory diet includes (1) drinking plenty of fluids (mostly water), (2) eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, (3) eating less red meat, (4) eating more omega-3 fatty acids (such as small cold water fish), and (5) eating less processed foods. For more information on the anti-inflammatory diet, refer to the previous blog on this subject.
As I've stressed in other blogs on this site, keeping your muscles strong and flexible helps support your joints, unload them, and keeps them healthy in the long-run. If your muscles are not strong, flexible, and balanced, then the impact of even daily activities such as climbing stairs can take a serious toll on the joints. Train your muscles to protect your joints by keeping them strong and flexible and well-balanced.
Keeping a healthy body weight is very important in helping to prevent osteoarthritis. Consider that for every 10 pounds of excess weight, the risk of developing arthritis increases by 40 percent. By contrast, women who are overweight and lose as little as 11 pounds reduced their risk of developing knee osteoarthritis by more than 50 percent. Increased weight places an increased stress on the joints that even strong, flexible, well-balanced muscles may have trouble compensating for over time. Keep a healthy weight and you'll help your joints stay healthy as well.