Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease that causes inflammation in the joints, especially in the fingers, wrists, feet, and ankles.
Being an autoimmune disease, in RA, your body is essentially attacking itself. If not treated over time, it can damage cartilage as well as the bones themselves, resulting in painful deformity and immobility.
While there’s no cure for rheumatoid arthritis, its progression can be slowed.
Get to know more about this disease and ways you can help manage it in the case that you or a loved one have been affected.
What Causes Rheumatoid Arthritis?
Unfortunately, researchers aren’t exactly sure what causes RA to occur, but there are factors that they believe may increase the risk of developing it. These factors are:
- Gender: Rheumatoid arthritis is more common in women than men
- Genetics: Although the risk of inheriting rheumatoid arthritis is relatively low, there is some evidence that it can be passed down through a family
- Pollution & Toxins: A polluted or toxin-filled environment can increase your odds
- Smoking: Smoking not only increases your probability of getting the disease but also can make it worse
- Diet: According to the National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society (NRAS), diets high in red meat and low in vitamin C and other components of brightly colored fruit and vegetables enhance the risk of RA; conversely, the Mediterranean diet appears to be relatively protective
- Age: RA can affect you at any age, but it’s most common between 40 and 60; it isn’t a normal part of aging, however
5 Ways to Manage Rheumatoid Arthritis
1. Stop Smoking
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), smoking cigarettes makes RA worse and can cause other medical problems. Smoking can also make it more difficult to stay physically active, which is a fundamental aspect of managing RA.
2. Lose Excess Weight
Obesity causes a plethora of health complications, especially for those dealing with any form of arthritis. Not only does obesity limit or restrict your ability to be active, but it also adds more daily pressure to joints, accelerating the progression of arthritis.
3. Exercise Frequently
Exercising provides endless health benefits and can reduce the negative effects of arthritis. Try to get at least 30 minutes of exercise each day. If you’re uncertain about what activities to do, or are worried about injury, sign up to work with a trainer or try classes at a gym. Learn more about physical activities for people with arthritis.
4. Sign Up for a Self-Management Education Program
RA self-management education programs allow you to learn more about controlling your RA symptoms, how to live daily with RA, and how else RA can affect your life. Learn more about the self-management education programs that the CDC recommends.
5. Reduce Exposure to Pollutants
Similar to smoking, breathing in any toxins or pollutants can worsen the impact of the disease and your overall health. If you’re often around hazardous chemicals, such as through your job, be sure to wear the proper safety gear.
Don’t Let Rheumatoid Arthritis Get in your Way
Having rheumatoid arthritis doesn’t have to mean you’re restricted. Use the ways above to effectively manage your RA and continue to live your life actively!
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