What causes osteoarthritis?

Weight and aging are the two biggest causes for osteoarthritis.

There are also inherited factors and injuries that predispose people to cartilage damage.  Finally there is the unknown.

Who are experiencing this?

This does not affect primarily the elderly.  The majority of people with arthritis are of working age.  Studies and projections show that within 30 years, nearly 35% of the labour force will be affected by osteoarthritis.  It affects more than 4 million people in Canada, 66% of those are women.  Currently there are more than 100 diseases and conditions that fall under this category.  Osteoarthritis accounts for the majority of hip and knee replacements in Canada.

What causes the pain?

The ends of our bones are covered with an elastic material called cartilage.  Cartilage allows the joints to move smoothly and to act as shock absorbers. Osteoarthritis erodes cartilage from the joints which results in more bone-on-bone interaction, along with an increase in pain, stiffness and swelling.  It can be found in hands, hips, knees, feet, spine and joints, it can be from damage by injuries or diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis.

Inherent risk factors—

As we are, the loss of muscle mass, thinning of joint cartilage and loosening of ligaments that come with aging all contribute.  Researchers are finding that family history is an important factor.  Women are at a higher risk to developing osteoarthritis due to the hormone estrogen.

External risk factor—

Being overweight increases as well as exacerbates the condition and increase the pain.  Normal wear and tear does not cause the joints to degenerate.  Regular activity is good for the joints and osteoarthritis is caused by an injury from not exercising properly, such as wearing proper shoes and landing with your knees bent when jumping.

How Can I prevent or deal with osteoarthritis?

Maintain a healthy weight by eating a balanced diet.  Eat a variety of foods to insure you receive enough vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.  Choose high-fiber foods such as vegetables, fruits and whole grain.  Choose leaner cuts of meat, eat more fish and reduce your intake of sugar and salt.

Exercising will strength the muscles around the affected area and will provide support and protection.  It will also increase joint mobility.  Choose low-impact exercise such as swimming, cycling and walking.  For the winter months try marching around your home, include stairs and hallways, move to music, engage in active video games like the Wii system, visit places of interest such as museums and finally while watching tv pick up some light weights or use resistance bands.

There are other therapies that help such as acupuncture, massage and yoga. 

So finally it does not matter your age, osteoarthritis is becoming prevalent at an earlier age and we have to start improving our diet and increasing  your daily exercise to keep our ligaments and cartilage healthy and strong to avoid this disease.

Gwen Cottingham, Registered Nutritionist g.cottingham@hotmail.com  905-778-9998

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