Too little muscle and too much fat is a dangerous combination when it comes to functionality in the general population. This can lead to disability, because too little muscle makes it difficult to get around, lift things, and just take care of the activities of daily living. Then, when a person gains weight due to the lack of exercise, daily activities are generally further decreased.
Despite what we all might think, losing weight is not the only thing needed to regain physical function, because weight loss often is accompanied by a loss of muscle mass. Weight loss must occur while actively building muscle.
Researchers are looking at the association of body composition in rheumatoid arthritis patients with overall health.
Body composition is a very modifiable variable, and if studies show that less than ideal body composition contributes not only to cardiovascular risk, but also general disability and, of course, joint damage, then rheumatologists will have proof to show insurance companies that they must be more aggressive in intervening to identify and reverse poor body composition. This will hopefully reduce the mortality and disability associated with rheumatoid arthritis.
It is important that rheumatologists not focus only on the joints. Rheumatologists also need to inquire regarding cardiovascular history, physical activity, diet, psychosocial issues, and family history.
Rheumatologists will have to measure weight, height, body mass index, and waist and hip circumference. Perhaps more focused cardiologic testing will be needed. And patients need to be asked in detail about their physical functioning on a day-to-day basis. There is already quite a bit of research published regarding the importance of tight control of rheumatoid arthritis to cut the risk of cardiovascular disease.
It is now important to look at the effect of body composition on rheumatoid arthritis, to see how lives are shortened or made more miserable by the extra fat and lack of muscle in some individuals.
Drugs for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis are not going to replace lost muscle, or reduce gained weight. It is the patient and doctor working together that can "fix" body composition.
Talk to your doctor about the dietary or exercise program he feels is appropriate for you.
Published On: September 22, 2008