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Diet and Exercise for Arthritis Patients

What is Arthritis?

Arthritis is a chronic condition that is characterized by pain, stiffness, swelling and inflammation of one or more joints. This condition is usually progressive, meaning it often worsens as patients age. In severe cases of arthritis, problems with mobility are often an issue.

Most cases of this condition can be classified as either rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis, also known as RA, is caused by autoimmune response that causes the body to attack its own tissues. This can lead to severe swelling, inflammation and deformation of the joints, as well as damage to other parts of the body like the heart and lungs. Osteoarthritis, on the other hand, is more common and is usually the result of previous injuries or worn, aged joints.

While treatments for these types of arthritis can vary, they all share a goal of improving patients’ quality of life by reducing the painful symptoms of this condition. Traditional treatments for arthritis include medications to relieve pain, swelling and stiffness, physical therapy and, in some cases, surgery to repair damaged joints. Other types of treatment include simple lifestyle changes, such as alterations to diet and activity levels. The following is an in-depth look at arthritis diets and arthritis exercises, as well as information on why they are effective in treating this condition.

Arthrits Diets

Studies show that the proper diet can help fight the symptoms of arthritis. Arthrits diets alleviate pain and swelling in a number of ways, including by promoting weight loss and decreased body mass index, which can take excess pressure and strain from bones and joints. Diets used to treat arthritis are typically comprised of foods rich in vitamins, minerals and substances like the following:

Antioxidants will help destroy disease-causing free radicals in the body, which can improve symptoms of arthritis and prevent further damage to joints. Free radicals are produced by the inflammation associated with arthritis and, in turn, only exacerbate other symptoms of this illness. Antioxidants are found in abundance in foods such as berries of all kinds, green tea, leafy greens and other colorful fruits and veggies.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are especially important for arthritis patients. These healthy fats, found in fish, nuts and olive, soybean and canola oils, help fight arthritis symptoms by suppressing the body’s production of chemicals that break down cartilage in the joints.

Vitamin C
Vitamin C is essential to healthy joint cartilage. Arhtrits diets are typically high in this vitamin, which is found in foods like oranges, lemons, grapefruit and other fruits and vegetables.

Vitamin D
Vitamin D promotes healthy cartilage and prevents the narrowing and weakening of joints. Vitamin D is also vital in the body’s absorption of calcium, and can therefore protect bone density as well. Vitamin D is found in foods like eggs, fish, dairy products and fortified grains.

A substance found in tumeric, which is a spice commonly used in Middle Eastern cuisine, called circumin may reduce inflammation and pain, and is therefore often recommended in arthrits diets. According to the USDA, regular ingestion of tumeric may also improve symptoms related to other diseases, as well, including high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol.

Arthritis Exercises

In years past, experts warned against exercise in arthritis patients due to the risk of further damage to joints. However, recent studies show that exercise can, in fact, be extremely effective in treating arthritis symptoms like pain, stiffness, inflammation and limited mobility. Arthritis exercises, both rheumatoid arthritis exercises and those designed for osteoarthritis patients, can also strengthen muscles and reduce body weight, both of which can help ease excess stress to joints. The following types of osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis exercises can help provide these benefits:

  • Strength-training. Exercises that improve strength in the arms, legs and core are recommended. This is because stronger muscles can help take the burden of body weight from fragile bones and joints.
  • Exercises that increase range of motion. Gently stretching and rolling the joints can reduce stiffness and improve mobility. Recent studies have shown that yoga can be beneficial to arthritis patients since it improves range of motion, balance and overall well-being.
  • Cardiovascular workouts. Workouts that increase heart rate and burn calories can provide a number of benefits to arthritis patients. These include weight loss, improved energy and reduced pain and stiffness.

It’s important to note that while exercise may provide several advantages to arthritis patients, a doctor should be consulted before a regimen is begun. Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis exercises should also be performed in a safe environment, preferably under the guidance of a trained professional.

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