According to the Arthritis Foundation, more than 50 million U.S. adults have doctor-diagnosed arthritis—a number that is expected to increase to 67 million by 2030. It’s the nation’s number one cause of disability, resulting in $156 billion in lost wages and medical expenses every year. While it’s more likely you’ll develop arthritis as a senior, it can actually strike people at any age. Fortunately, researchers have found a few steps you can take to reduce your chances of suffering from chronic joint pain and disease.
Eat Cherries Whenever Possible
Cherries contain powerful antioxidants known as anthocyanins. Along with reducing associated pain, studies have found that the consumption of cherries or tart cherry juice can lower the risk of arthritis flare-ups. Anthocyanins are also found in raspberries and blueberries.
Add Turmeric to Your Meals
Turmeric’s bright yellow color comes from curcumin, a chemical compound produced by some plants that has anti-inflammatory properties that have been found to ease arthritis pain and inflammation. Sprinkle the flavorful spice on yogurt, eggs, fish or roasted vegetables. You can also blend some into a fruit and vegetable smoothie.
Switch to Olive Oil
Many studies have suggested that oleocanthal, a chemic compoundfound in extra virgin olive oil, reduces inflammation caused by rheumatoid arthritis by preventing the formation of pro-inflammatory enzymes in the much the same way as ibuprofen and aspirin do. Swap out your vegetable oil for a good-quality olive oil when making salad dressings and marinades.
Eliminate Soft Drinks
Several studies have found that the consumption of sugary soda can speed the progression of osteoarthritis and increase your risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis. Added sugars can cause obesity, insulin resistance and inflammation, factors that are also involved in the development of rheumatoid arthritis. And even diet soft drinks and fruit juices can cause inflammation in already arthritic joints.
Get Plenty of Exercise
Exercise can help you maintain a healthy weight as well as strengthen your muscles and joints, increase flexibility and decrease your risk of falls. Excess weight causes an increased strain on your joints and can contribute to the development of arthritis. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), low-impact activities—including walking, swimming and biking—are excellent at helping to reduce arthritis joint pain.
Explore Alternative Medicine
A Scottish study found that both acupuncture and tai chi—an ancient Chinese form of martial art and medication—can reduce the pain of rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. Massage and yoga have also been found to offer some relief. You can talk to your doctor about alternative treatments that may be right for you, though it’s unlikely they’ll be covered by health insurance.