I have arthritis. Would losing weight help?

Individuals who have arthritis in weight bearing joints such as the knees, back, hips, ankles will generally experience some decrease in pain with weight loss. Improvement in pain is due to less weight-bearing on these joints.

Arthritis is an inflammation of the joints. Symptoms include swelling, pain, redness of skin, heat at the joint, and loss of function. It’s estimated that more than 60 million people will be affected by arthritis by the year 2020.

Arthritis can severely limit activity of people of any age, but it’s the leading chronic condition in people age 65 and over, Arthritis is more common in women than in men. Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are the two most common forms of the disease.

Osteoarthritis is linked to the wearing away of the cartilage found at the ends of bones. As the cartilage deteriorates, the bones grind together, causing pain. It’s usually found in the joints of the neck, fingers, hips, knees, and lower back. Osteoarthritis is more likely to affect people over age 40, and by age 60 most people show signs of the disease.

Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammation of the membranes that line the joints. The body’s immune system attacks its own tissues, causing inflammation of the joints. The entire body is affected by this condition. Unrelenting pain and severe joint damage are common symptoms of this disease. Anti-inflammatory drugs are useful in treating it.

The good news is that you can exercise daily without injury to the joints even if you have arthritis, if the pain is under control.

There is a nutritional approach to helping those who suffer from arthritis. Evidence has shown that the intake of Omega-3 fatty acids, as well as vitamins C, D, and E, can alleviate the pain and swelling associated with arthritis. Omega-3 fatty acids suppress the immune system response that causes joint inflammation. These acids can be found in oily fish such as salmon, sardines, and tuna. But check with your doctor before taking large quantities of fish oil. It can potentially affect blood clotting and can interfere with medications you currently take.

Vitamins C, D, and E, even beta-carotene, offer protection from certain types of arthritis. Vitamins C and D help with osteoarthritis. Vitamin E reduces arthritic pain and swelling, while beta-carotene alleviates rheumatoid arthritis. The vitamins are no replacement for medications or physical therapy, which should be continued while taking extra vitamins.