This time I decided to write about a medical condition that will probably start destroying my joints as I get older. If you are still young and fit you probably have no idea of what I am talking about, but if you are in your late forties, then you might be more familiar with the terms arthritis and osteoarthritis. Actually, osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common form of arthritis. It causes pain, swelling, and reduced motion in the joints. It can occur in any joint, but usually affects the hands, knees, hips or spine. It is commonly thought that OA is an inevitable part of getting older and this is quite true. OA usually develops in people over 45 years of age, although younger people can also be affected. Sadly, we know more about how to deal with OA than the pathology behind or how to diagnose the disease.
The main risk factors for osteoarthritis include:
- Getting older and genetics
- Joint injury
- Being overweight
If you have not yet invented a drug for a long and healthy life or the chemical code to change your genetics, then you have to forget the “getting older and genetics” risk and move to the remaining two factors. Actually the risks “joint injury” and “being overweight” are interrelated. And from my point of view the last two are also related to the “getting older” risk anyway. I am saying this because I believe that by staying thin or at a normal weight we place less pressure on our joints (low injury risk), and therefore we keep our joints young. This is how I see all 3 main risks for OA as interrelated. Actually, a review study done in 2007 showed that this disability could be significantly improved when weight was reduced over 5.1%, or at the reduction rate of 0.24% per week. Clinical efficacy on pain reduction was present, although not predictable after weight loss. Meta-regression analysis indicated that physical disability of patients with knee OA who were overweight diminished after a moderate weight reduction regime. The analysis supported that a weight loss of 5% should be achieved within a 20-week period—that is, 0.25% per week. Consequently, we can support that body weight plays an important role in OA prevention and pain relief.
I want to finish this post by giving some useful resources to people who suffer from OA. The new guidelines from the Osteoarthritis Research Society International (OARSI) recommend exercise treatments and lifestyle guidelines as appropriate for all individuals (listed in order from highest benefit-to-risk score to lowest): land-based exercise, weight management, strength training, water-based exercise, and self-management and education. For weight management, the OARSI guidelines make a specific recommendation of achieving a 5% weight loss within a 20-week period to be effective at treating knee OA.
Summing up, a physically active lifestyle, exercise and weight management are the keys to minimising the risk or the symptoms of OA. And remember this; “soon, major evidence will relate osteoarthritis and metabolic syndrome and this evidence will change our entire approach to osteoarthritis as a disease.”