Rheumatoid arthritis (RA), one of the most common arthritic conditions, develops when the body’s immune system mistakes its own cells for foreign particles and starts to attack the protective lining of the joints. This causes the body to break down bone and cartilage, which results in pain and swelling. Thankfully, there are ways to prevent this pain and the development of RA.
The question of cause
Researchers and medical professionals can’t pinpoint the exact cause of RA. Current theories include a combination of genetics and environmental factors. Unfortunately, some of the risk factors associated with RA cannot be changed, including your age (people between the ages of 40 and 60 are most at risk), your family history, and your gender (women have a higher chance of developing it than men).
Common treatments for rheumatoid arthritis
RA usually requires lifelong treatment with physical therapy, education, strengthening exercises, possible surgery, rest and medications. Some of these medications include anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs).
Although drug therapy plays a huge part in stopping the progression of RA, there are small daily changes you can make to help prevent its onset. Here are four secrets to delaying the onset of rheumatoid arthritis.
Researchers have determined that there is a strong association between RA and smoking. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, smokers are 2.5 times more likely to develop the disease. If you still aren’t convinced, research shows that continuing to smoke will also cause RA symptoms such as ligament damage, lumps under the skin, joint flare-ups, and depression to worsen more quickly than non-smokers. If you have a family history of RA, it is particularly important to keep this in mind. You can't change your genes, but you can change your habits.
It's no secret that exercise promotes overall good health, but how is it connected to the onset of RA? A 2016 U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs study, along with several other studies, found that obesity impacts the development of RA, and exercise helps prevent obesity. To maintain a healthier weight, combine aerobic exercise with strength training and stretching. Strength training can aid in reducing the bone loss associated with RA. Stretching can help reduce joint stiffness and pain, which are side effects of RA.
Adopt an anti-inflammatory diet
A diet high in omega-3 fatty acids can help reduce inflammation throughout the body and joints. Cold-water fish like salmon, tuna and mackerel are full of omega-3s, along with flaxseed, almonds, walnuts and cashews. You should also stick to foods that are high in vitamins A, C and E. These vitamins are antioxidants that reduce cell damage and the production of free radicals that create oxidative stress in the body. Try adding pomegranate to your list of fruits; these are powerhouse antioxidants that, according to some studies, reduce inflammation and contain compounds that prevent the onset of arthritis.
Avoid environmental pollutants
Although researchers don’t totally understand why, evidence suggests that exposure to some environmental pollutants, such as silica or asbestos, early in your life could increase your risk of developing RA. Steer clear of those pollutants, and if you’re often exposed to harsh chemicals, wear the right gear!