Arthritis is a common condition that impacts more than 50 million adults in the United States. It is the most common cause of disability, accounting for more than 12 million lost workdays each year. If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with arthritis recently, these facts will help you better understand – and hopefully manage – this condition.
Arthritis is among the oldest-known human conditions
Arthritis isn’t deadly, and it doesn’t decrease the quality of life substantially, as long as you receive treatment and manage it properly. Nevertheless, a diagnosis of arthritis (or any disease) can be frightening, but you’re not alone. People have been getting it for more than 500,000 years. Historically, arthritis was one of the earliest disorders to be identified and characterized clinically—one that dates back to prehistoric times. Reference to arthritis is found in texts at least as far as 4500 BC. A text dated 123 AD first describes symptoms that appear similar to rheumatoid arthritis.
Arthritis can affect any joint in the human body
There are 203 joints in the adult human body, and each of those joints can develop arthritis over time. Not surprisingly, most of these joints are subjected to wear and tear that can break down the buffer between two bones, causing friction, inflammation, and pain. The joints that are most prone to arthritis include the fingers, hips, back, knees, and ankles.
Arthritis can strike at any age
Most people believe that arthritis is an old person’s disease and that it is entirely a consequence of aging. This is one of the biggest misconceptions about arthritis. According to the Centers for Disease Control, nearly 2/3 of people with arthritis are under age 65. It can occur at any age. Nearly 300,000 babies and children have arthritis or a rheumatic condition.
There are more than 100 types of arthritis
We often hear the word “arthritis” to describe all kinds of joint inflammation, discomfort, or stiffness. However, arthritis is actually a blanket term for more than 100 different disorders and rheumatic conditions. Some of the most well-known types include:
Osteoarthritis (OA): also called degenerative arthritis or “wear and tear” disease, it is the most common type of arthritis, affecting millions of people worldwide. OA happens when the joints’ protective cartilage wears down over time, causing pain and mobility issues. It can affect any joint in the body, but it usually causes the most damage in the hands, knees, and hips.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic (long-term) autoimmune and inflammatory condition that accidentally causes the immune system to attack healthy cells in the body. This generates pain and swelling in different parts of the body and can cause irreversible joint deformities and bone damage. Experts don’t know what triggers RA, but it is believed that genes and certain lifestyle habits such as smoking can make a person more susceptible.
Gout: this type of inflammatory arthritis is more prevalent in men than in women, but it can affect anyone. It usually starts as a sudden, extremely painful swelling at the base of the big toe that causes the joint to feel hot and tender. It occurs when urate crystals accumulate in the affected joint, resulting from a uric acid buildup in the blood. Being overweight or obese, eating an unhealthy diet, and having certain chronic conditions can increase the risk of developing gout.
Juvenile arthritis (JA): many people don’t know that arthritis can affect children as well as adults. More than 300,000 kids and teens in the United States are affected by JA, a rheumatoid condition that causes the immune system to release inflammatory chemicals that attack healthy cells and joints. There are several subtypes of JA, including juvenile idiopathic arthritis, fibromyalgia, juvenile scleroderma, and juvenile lupus.
Arthritis is more common in older women than in men
Before the age of 55, arthritis is more prevalent in men than in women. However, studies show that after this age, women quickly overtake men in numbers. Experts don’t know what causes this gender disparity, but some theories include estrogen level dips during menopause, anatomical differences (women’s hips are wider than men’s, for example), and the number of full-term childbirths a woman might have.
Rheumatoid Arthritis Is Genetic
Research has found that those who develop rheumatoid arthritis (RA) could be inheriting the disease. Several genes are responsible for the body’s tendency to get rheumatoid arthritis, as well as the severity of the disease. Since rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease, the genes involved have to deal with immune system control.
Being overweight increases the risk
Having an unhealthy weight is connected to many health issues, including cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Yet, the risks do not stop there. Being overweight or obese has been recognized as a risk factor for developing osteoarthritis. With recent studies revealing that more than 50-percent of North Americans, including Canadians and Americans, being overweight, an explosion of osteoarthritis is expected to occur as this overweight population ages. After all, any weight-bearing joints like the knees, hips, and back, are going to be worn down faster if you are carrying extra weight than if you were at a healthier weight.
Arthritis cannot be cured, but it can be managed
Unfortunately, there is no cure for arthritis, but there are treatments that can help improve its symptoms and slow it down. One of the most important factors when it comes to having arthritis is getting an early diagnosis; early treatment and support may help reduce mobility issues and reduce the risk for future problems.
Arthritis treatments have improved significantly over the past few decades, and there are medications available to stop some types of arthritis and rheumatoid diseases from worsening. Lifestyle habits can also help manage arthritis symptoms, ease pain, and restore mobility:
- Exercise – swimming is excellent for improving arthritis pain
- Avoid stress
- Sleep at least 7 hours every night
- Don’t smoke
- Avoid alcohol
- Maintain a healthy weight
There are natural ingredients that have been clinically proven to be beneficial for arthritis sufferers.
There are several science-backed herbs, vitamins, and minerals that can provide effective nutritional support for arthritis sufferers.
Boswellia extract: a sticky resin extracted from the Boswellia serrata tree, Boswellia has proven anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties. Research studies show that this extract can improve pain and swelling in inflammatory conditions like OA and RA through a series of acids called Boswellic acids that block leukotrienes’ formation (molecules that cause inflammation) in the body.
Ginger: ginger supplements are a safe and effective option for promoting comfort. For example, a 2015 review of five research studies with more than 500 participants found that those who had osteoarthritis and took ginger supplements saw a 30 percent reduction in pain compared to a placebo group. Ginger to supports a healthy inflammatory response, joint flexibility, mobility, and comfort, and boost overall immunity.
Curcumin: evidence suggests that curcumin – the bioactive compound in turmeric – has potent anti-inflammatory properties. A recent study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that, after supplementing with turmeric capsules over 12 weeks, participants experienced significant improvement in pain and stiffness of knee osteoarthritis compared to those taking a placebo pill.
Ashwagandha: research studies looking at the benefits and properties of Ashwagandha have found significant neuroprotectant and anti-inflammatory properties. A study published in the peer-reviewed journal Phytotherapy Research showed that Withania somnifera (Ashwagandha) extract significantly reduced inflammatory markers in the body and may protect against cartilage damage.
Vitamin C – Ascorbic Acid: Vitamin C is critical for the production and maintenance of collagen, the major component of connective tissue throughout the body. Our joints are largely made of the protein collage, supporting both flexible and strong joints. Low vitamin C intake is directly associated with joint issues in the knees.*
Being deficient in magnesium can mean trouble for your joints and collagen. Magnesium helps promote a healthy inflammatory response, improves calcium absorption, and reduces oxidative stress. The sufficient intake of magnesium is particularly important for maintaining muscle and nerve function, which also contributes to the structural development of bones. Magnesium also has a relaxing effect on the nervous system. This makes magnesium especially important to those involved in sports, the elderly, and anyone of any age with joint issues.*
The trace mineral boron has been shown to support joint mobility and flexibility while promoting joint comfort. Boron is also critical for the bone health of those bones that surround and are the foundation for your joints. Boron stimulates the bone-growing and strengthening processes.*
Researchers have found that the herb feverfew can inhibit the release of enzymes from white cells found in inflamed joints, which is of particular support for joint comfort.*
Hyaluronic acid binds to water to support lubrication and act as a joint shock absorber. It’s main functions are to maintain collagen, retain moisture, and encourage elasticity and flexible.*
Hopefully, you have learned some important facts about arthritis. If you have arthritis or have questions about the disease, contact a healthcare professional to learn more. Learn what lifestyle changes you can implement to improve your symptoms, increase mobility, and promote comfort. Related Article: Facts you need to know about joint pain.
Curt Hendrix, MS, CCN, CNS
Akeso Health Sciences Co-founder and Chief Scientific Officer, Curt Hendrix, MS, CCN, CNS, has an unwavering commitment to help people with chronic health issues. Curt holds advanced degrees in chemistry and clinical nutrition and has dedicated his life to the research and development of innovative natural medicines.
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