Aging is tough on your joints. The protective cushion between your bones—cartilage– is bound to show wear and tear over time. About 50% of adults over age 65 have arthritis, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Osteoarthritis is the most common form.
AARP’s recent article entitled “The 6 Worst Habits for Your Joints” lays them out for us:
- Smoking. Nicotine in cigarettes narrows blood vessels and, as a result, restricts the amount of oxygen and critical nutrients that reach the joint cartilage, which can result in cartilage loss. Smoking also increases your risk for osteoporosis, the brittle bone disease.
- A physically inactive lifestyle. Sedentary habits are bad for your joints, since it makes it hard to maintain a healthy weight. Extra pounds are hard on your joints, especially those in the hips, hands and knees. A study in Arthritis & Rheumatology followed more than 1.7 million people for more than four years and found that participants who were obese, with a body mass index of 30 or higher, were about three to five times as likely to get knee osteoarthritis. Frequent sitting also contributes to muscle tightness in the hips and legs, and weakness of core-stabilizing muscles. To counter this, try to get 30 minutes of joint-friendly exercise five days a week, such as moderate, low-impact activities like walking, water aerobics and swimming. Break up bouts of sitting every 30 minutes or so a few minutes of stretching, which keep joints lubricated.
- There’s also overdoing exercise. Don’t try to cram a week’s worth of exercise into the weekend. Studies have shown that people with arthritis who keep their muscles in good shape manage arthritis much better. So, find a happy medium with a mix of aerobic exercise and strength training.
- Carrying a heavy load. Carrying objects that are heavy creates imbalance throughout the body, which create torque or stress on the joints. This can further deteriorate the cartilage over time. Think of a “heavy” load as any amount of weight that requires more than one hand to pick it up. Be smart and use the palms of both hands or use your arms instead of your hands when you lift or carry items. Hold items close to your body, which is less stressful for your joints.
- Eating pro-inflammatory foods. This includes red meat, white sugar, French fries, soda and pastries. These foods can make joint pain worse, but foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, like flaxseed oil and cold-water fish like salmon and mackerel, are considered anti-inflammatory and can help alleviate inflamed joints. Leafy greens are also good, as are cholesterol-lowering foods like almonds, pistachios and walnuts.
- Texting! Constant typing on your cell phone creates inflammation of the joints and tendon sheaths which can lead to pain and stiffness. To avoid joint pain, take breaks and consider using the speech-to-text function on your smartphone.
Reference: AARP (Jan. 3, 2022) “The 6 Worst Habits for Your Joints”