With more than 250 joints in the human body, one may think that people are aware of their functioning and how to keep them healthy. But many of us do not pay much attention to our joints—until they cause pain.
Arthritis is a disease that causes chronic pain in the joints. Though there are around 100 types of arthritis, the most common ones are osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and gout. Some other ailments may be affected by certain types of arthritis, like fibromyalgia and lupus.
Arthritis is usually associated with older adults, but it can also affect people as young as 18 years old. A study by Jennifer M. Hootman PhD, ATC, FACSM, FNATA, predicted that by 2040 about 78.4 million Americans will have doctor-diagnosed arthritis. The number of doctor-diagnosed cases of arthritis in the United States between 2013 and 2015 was 54.4 million.¹
It is important to incorporate lifestyle measures to preserve the health of our joints. A few of those changes that have worked for many are:
1. The Mediterranean Diet For Healthy Joints
Much has been said about the benefits of the Mediterranean diet in recent years, based on a growing number of studies. Countries like Spain, Italy, Greece, and the South of France tend to follow this diet. The Mediterranean diet’s main components are plenty of fruit and vegetables, olive oil, fish, and seafood, together with moderate consumption of wine and dairy. The Mediterranean diet contains very low amounts of red meat and saturated fat.
Recent studies have found that the Mediterranean diet may help in the reduction of arthritis that affects joints. ²
2. A Healthy Weight For Healthy Joints
It comes as no surprise that when an individual maintains a healthy weight, many aspects of their overall wellbeing may also improve.
Losing weight is not an easy task, but the benefits are worth it. Believe it or not, gaining as little as 10 pounds can increase stress on the knees by more than 30%. Less weight means the joints have to do less work to support the body. This naturally puts less stress on the joints, helping them to stay healthier over time.³
3. Balancing Inflammation For Healthy Joints
If a finger is injured it will swell, which could be seen as a bad sign. But in the right amounts, inflammation is a repair mechanism used by the body to heal . In this process, the immune system detects and gets rid of harmful foreign elements. After this, the body can begin the recovery process.
However, when inflammation becomes chronic it can develop into diseases like arthritis. In this case, the joints get swollen because of the increase of fluid around them- Hence the importance of balancing the inflammation level in the body.
Some natural ways to help address inflammation in the joints are: following an inflammation-reducing diet reducing stress levels, exercising often, getting enough sleep, maintaining a healthy weight, and targeted herbal supplements.
4. Stretching For Healthy Joints
Practicing stretching has many benefits for the body and mind. The regular or even daily practice of stretching can offer so many perks like enhanced performance, reduced risk of injury, diminished stress, improved muscular function, and more. Stretching may help to have healthy joints by minimizing the wear and tear of them. Stretching improves the range of motion of the joints. It prevents stiffness and deterioration by helping the synovial fluid to circulate and coat the joint surface.
5. Eat Fish for Healthy Joints
Coldwater fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, sardines, and mackerel are great sources of Omega-3. This important fatty acid may have a positive influence on an individual’s overall health. Omega-3 rich fish may help with the development of stronger bones. Studies had shown that may also help to balance inflammation of the joints affected by arthritis.
Incorporating the consumption of fish rich in Omega-3 may not only aid joints, but due to its inflammation-reducing properties, it could help with other conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure, depression, and more.
6. Stop Smoking for Healthy Joints
Most of us are aware of the devastating effects that smoking may cause on individual health. Diseases like cancer, respiratory illness, heart failure, and others have been linked to smoking. Each year more than 440,000 American adults die as a consequence of health complications related to smoking. What many people don’t know is that smoking has been shown to have a negative effect on bones and joint health too.⁴
Studies have shown that smoking contributes to greater loss of cartilage in individuals that suffer from osteoarthritis. Quitting smoking can not only add 7 to 10 years to life expectancy, it can also bring many improvements to health such as lower cholesterol, decreased risk of developing heart disease, and healthy joints among others.⁵
7. Vitamin D for Healthy joints
A long list of health benefits has been associated with vitamin D, like supporting the immune system, strengthening muscles and bones, battling depression, and more. Vitamin D has an important role in bone and muscle function. Research has shown that its inflammation-balancing properties help to lessen the pain of patients suffering from arthritis.
A good source of vitamin D is sunlight, but it can also be found in foods like mushrooms, cheese, liver, egg yolks, fatty fish, fortified cereals, juices, and milk.⁶
8. Build muscle for Healthy Joints
Many of us do not associate building muscle with joint health— but in rality, the best way to protect our joints from any damage is to build muscle around them. The stronger the muscles are, the stronger the joints can be.⁷
9. Walking for Healthy Joints
Lately, there has been a craze about the health benefits of walking. Some even prefer vigorous walking to running as a form of aerobic exercise. Many people do not have many opportunities for walking because of the modern lifestyle. They are seated at work for more than 8 hours. They drive every day to and from work.
However, we should try to find more opportunities to walk because of the many health advantages. Walking can help to lose weight, sleep better, improve circulation, and support joints.
As walking is a low-impact exercise, it can increase blood flow to the cartilage. Greater blood flow helps the cartilage to get the nutrients needed to protect the joints. Plus the movement helps to lubricate the joints increasing the ROM (range of motion). Reducing stiffness and pain.⁸
10. Swimming for Healthy Joints
Swimming is not only a fun activity but is also another low impact exercise that benefits the whole body. Joints get stiffer as we grow older. Any type of exercise helps to improve joint mobility. Swimming has the advantage of working many joints at the same time.
People with chronic joint pain may benefit from swimming. While swimming, 90% of their body weight is supported by the water. This helps to tame the joint pain due to the movements.
For people that suffer from arthritis some really good water exercises to try are aqua-jogging and aqua aerobics.
Joint health problems are on the rise, as with so many other chronic, inflammatory conditions. However, with simple strategies and lifestyle adjustments, you can optimize joint health and range of motion, while supporting overall wellness in the process.
|Hootman JM, Helmick CG, Barbour KE, Theis KA, Boring MA. Updated projected prevalence of self-reported doctor-diagnosed arthritis and arthritis-attributable activity limitation among US adults, 2015-2040. Arthritis rheumatol. 2016;68(7):1582-1587.
|Forsyth C, Kouvari M, D’Cunha NM, et al. The effects of the Mediterranean diet on rheumatoid arthritis prevention and treatment: a systematic review of human prospective studies. Rheumatol Int. 2018;38(5):737-747.
|Losina E, Smith KC, Paltiel AD, et al. Cost‐effectiveness of diet and exercise for overweight and obese patients with knee osteoarthritis. Arthritis Care Res (Hoboken). 2019;71(7):855-864.
|QuickStats: Number of deaths from 10 leading causes — national vital statistics system, United States, 2010. Cdc.gov. Published March 1, 2013. Accessed October 22, 2020.
|Amin S, Niu J, Guermazi A, et al. Cigarette smoking and the risk for cartilage loss and knee pain in men with knee osteoarthritis. Ann Rheum Dis. 2007;66(1):18-22.
|Kostoglou-Athanassiou I, Athanassiou P, Lyraki A, Raftakis I, Antoniadis C. Vitamin D and rheumatoid arthritis. Ther Adv Endocrinol Metab. 2012;3(6):181-187.
|Knoop J, Steultjens MPM, Roorda LD, et al. Improvement in upper leg muscle strength underlies beneficial effects of exercise therapy in knee osteoarthritis: secondary analysis from a randomised controlled trial. Physiotherapy. 2015;101(2):171-177.