Diet, Weight and Osteoarthritis Prevention

Osteoarthritis (OA) is a common joint disorder that affects the hands, knees, hips, back and neck. It is well documented that being overweight puts added stress on your joints and could possibly result in the breakdown of cartilage.  

While there is no specific OA diet, maintaining a healthy weight does decrease your risk of developing this very painful condition. Several studies have found a direct link between weight and knee OA. Being overweight or obese can increase your risk of developing knee OA, and in women the risk is nearly 4 times that of those at a normal weight. The good news is even small amount of weight loss can drastically reduce your risk of developing OA. One study found that for every 11-pound weight loss the risk of knee OA dropped by more than 50 percent.

A healthy diet is the first step towards maintaining a healthy weight and preventing the development of OA. The 2005 Dietary Guidelines recommend a diet that emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fat-free or low-fat dairy products, lean meats, beans and nuts. It also recommends a diet low in saturated and trans fats and added sugars.

Physical activity is also essential in the management of OA. It helps to keep the muscles that surround and help support the joints strong. It also helps decrease bone loss and can reduce joint swelling and pain. Not to mention the vital role that physical activity plays in weight management.

The physical activity goals for those with OA may differ from those of other people. If you suffer from OA your exercise program should focus on:

·   Preserving or restoring range of motion and flexibility around the affected joints.

·   Increasing muscle strength and endurance.

·   Increasing aerobic conditioning.

 If you suffer from OA you may want to focus on non-weight bearing activities for initial weight reduction. Biking and aqua aerobics are two great options for those with OA. Both of these activities allow for conditioning without putting added stress on the joints. In fact, many fitness facilities offer aqua aerobics classes specifically designed for those with OA. These classes are regulated by the American Arthritis Association and have exercises and goals specific to those with OA that include keeping all the muscles being used underwater and using floatation devices to prevent bouncing.

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