Ways to keep your joints healthy as you age
Joint pain is one of the most common health issues in the United States. According to the National Institutes of Health, 17% of adults experience severe joint pain almost daily.
Joint health is important because it impacts so many aspects of life. When you have healthy joints, you can move more freely and easily -- as long as they’re free from pain and inflammation.
But there are many things you can do to keep your joints healthy as you age, which will help you remain active and independent for many years to come. This article covers some of the best ways to maintain joint health so you don’t have trouble moving around now or later in life.
Do you want to keep those joints healthy? Then keep moving! Research shows exercise helps lubricate joints so they work more smoothly. Strength training helps strengthen and thicken the muscles that support your joints, so you’re less likely to sustain a joint injury. Plus, exercise can help your bones stay healthy and strong, so they can support your body as it ages.
Finally, regular physical activity burns calories and helps you avoid weight gain. More weight places added stress on your joints. Exercise is a must-do for joint health. If you already have significant arthritis, avoid high-impact activities where both feet leave the ground simultaneously. This type of activity is too jarring for arthritic joints.
Choose low-impact exercises such as swimming or cycling. Exercise can also reduce stress and improve sleep quality, both of which will help you deal with joint discomfort better.
Lose weight if necessary
The more you weigh, the more stress it places on your joints. Weight loss reduces joint pain by reducing the load on your joints. The more weight you lose, the less stress is placed on your knee and hip joints, which can reduce pain and stiffness.
If you already have osteoarthritis (OA) of the knee or hip, losing even 10 pounds can affect how well you function during daily activities such as walking up stairs or bending over to pick something up off the floor.
If you’re concerned that excess weight could harm your ability to move freely as you get older, talk to your doctor about how being overweight could affect joint health down the road.
Avoid too much stress on your joints
Avoid sitting for long periods, as too much sitting adds stress to your joints. For example, if you work at an office desk, there’s a chance your upper back is slumped forward while typing on a keyboard all day long.
This position creates pressure on the facet joints in your spine (the bones that connect vertebrae together), which can lead to wear and tear over time -- even if you exercise regularly outside of work.
When you sit, your hip flexors tighten, causing muscle imbalances that can trigger lower back pain. In addition, sitting also puts pressure on your joints and ligaments. Over time, this can lead to osteoarthritis of the hips and knees.
The best way to reduce sitting-related joint pain is by moving around often throughout the day. If you work at a desk all day, take frequent breaks to walk and stretch your legs. Just standing up will help reduce compression and improve circulation.
Eat an anti-inflammatory diet
An anti-inflammatory diet can help reduce pain and improve mobility for people with painful conditions such as osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. The key is to avoid foods that cause inflammation, such as processed foods high in trans fats, saturated fats, and refined carbohydrates. Instead, focus on eating various colorful fruits and vegetables rich in antioxidants, which help fight inflammation when consumed regularly.
One of the best things you can do for your joints is stop smoking. Smoking is a major cause of osteoarthritis and degeneration of cartilage in your joints. In fact, smoking can cause inflammation, tissue damage, and even cartilage loss, which leads to joint pain.
To combat this detrimental effect on your system, it’s important to quit or at least cut back as much as possible. If you can’t quit smoking on your own, talk to your doctor about nicotine replacement products and smoking cessation programs that can help.
Don’t ignore injuries
Don’t ignore an injury or sudden ache. If you think you have injured your joint, see your doctor immediately. Your doctor can rule out any serious problem, and if it’s minor, they can treat the injury so that it doesn’t lead to long-term problems in the future.
If you ignore an injury or don’t seek treatment for one because you think it will go away on its own, it could lead to permanent damage. Once you’ve injured a joint, you’re at higher risk of developing arthritis in that joint.
Use proper protective equipment if you play sports to reduce your risk of injury. Follow good form when you exercise or strength train, and work on your balance skills to lower your risk of falling.
Know your family history
If joint problems, like osteoarthritis, run in your family, you may be at higher risk of developing it yourself at a younger age. This means you should begin taking steps now to lower your risk through safe exercise, weight control, not smoking, and adopting good posture.
You can take many steps to keep your joints healthy as you age, which will help you remain active and independent. You can stay active and independent as you age by taking care of them.
“Joint Health Matters - The Ultimate Guide to Joints.” .niams.nih.gov/health-topics/kids/healthy-joints.
“16 Joint-Protection Tips - Arthritis Foundation.” .arthritis.org/health-wellness/healthy-living/managing-pain/joint-protection/16-joint-protection-tips.
“NIH analysis shows Americans are in pain | National Institutes of ....” .nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/nih-analysis-shows-americans-are-pain.