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: Improve your Lifestyle, Improve your Rheumatoid Arthritis

Improve your Lifestyle, Improve your Rheumatoid Arthritis

Outreach Intern

Those with Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) suffer from joint deformities, pain and stiffness caused by a faulty immune system that harms healthy joints and bones. The exact cause of RA is unknown; however, The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases suggests that scientists have found factors that could be involved in causing Rheumatoid Arthritis. Certain genes have been linked to the development of RA, and environmental factors have been found to trigger the disease in those who have the genes. Hormones are also thought to be a factor in developing RA. Unfortunately, there is no cure for Rheumatoid Arthritis; however, it is treatable with medications and other treatments. Self-care is specifically important and can help manage the pain and low functionality caused by the disease. Let's take a look at how to self-manage Rheumatoid Arthritis…

RA



Patients with RA often have vitamin and mineral deficiencies, increased resting metabolic rate and protein breakdown, and side effects from long-term consumption of arthritis medications. All of these factors cause RA patients to be considered at nutritional risk. Eating a balanced diet and maintaining a healthy weight is important for self-managing RA. Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center recommends Rheumatoid Arthritis patients eat a variety of foods, focusing heavily on grains, fruits, and vegetables and avoid fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol. The Arthritis Foundation explains how foods rich in antioxidants have been found to control and reduce inflammation. These foods include fish, olive oil, grapes, berries, nuts, dark green veggies, dark chocolate, cranberries, and more. Sugars and alcoholic beverages should be consumed in moderation. Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center advises, "The more that you are in control of what you are eating, the better the overall benefits for your health and arthritis".

Just as important as nutrition is physical activity. Those with Rheumatoid Arthritis should stay physically active and increase their flexibility to help with joint pain and stiffness, explains the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Building muscle strength and endurance can help to support and protect joints, as well as maintain a healthy weight. RA patients should work on aerobic activities, strength training, and stretching exercises. Some good activities, as recommended by the Arthritis Foundation, include, but are not limited to, cycling, golf, rowing, yoga, aquatics, and weight exercises.

Stress reduction is also important when self-managing Rheumatoid Arthritis. Between the physical and emotional challenges RA patients may face, stress levels can become increased. The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases tells us that stress can make living with RA more difficult, as well as increase the amount of pain a patient feels, and recommends the following for stress relief:

  • Regular rest periods
  • Distraction/visual exercises
  • Exercise programs
  • Participation in support groups
  • Good communication with the patient's health care team

Rheumatoid Arthritis should be treated by a medical professional, but self-care is also extremely important. Patients can self-manage their RA in order to have greater control over the disease and ultimately enjoy a good quality of life. Read about World Arthritis Day and test your arthritis knowledge by taking the myth buster quiz in Lisa Blubaugh's post World Arthritis Day: Raising Awareness and Sharing Facts about Rheumatic and Musculoskeletal Diseases on MMG's blog, The Healthy(ist).

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The Healthy(ist) blog is a platform to share, learn about, and debate topics related to public and social health, scientific research, health communications, and behavior change.
We invite and encourage anyone interested in current public health and health communication trends and issues to join MMG's contributing bloggers in adding their voice to the ongoing discussion about how we can advance health, together.

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