Tips to Reduce Your Risk of Arthritis

There is no sure way to prevent arthritis. Some causes of the disease, such as increasing age, family history and gender (arthritis is more common in women), are out of your control. Yet, there are steps you can take to reduce your risk, or delay the potential onset, of certain types of arthritis. Many of these steps — such as eating a healthy diet and exercising — can prevent other diseases too.

“These healthy lifestyle habits also are part of the treatment plan for people diagnosed with arthritis,” said Melissa Franco, D.O., a family medicine physician with Baptist Health Primary Care.

Watch Your Weight
Being overweight or obese can take a toll on your knees and hips. “Excess weight causes stress on the joint, damaging and wearing down the cartilage,” Dr. Franco said. Every pound of excess weight exerts about four pounds of extra pressure on the knees, experts say. If you are 10 pounds overweight, the force on your knees as you take each step is increased by 40 pounds. 

Get Some Exercise
A sedentary lifestyle causes weak muscles and increases the odds of developing arthritis. On the other hand, low-impact aerobics, strength training and stretching can help prevent stiff joints, build muscle and improve endurance. Exercise strengthens the muscles around the joints, which protects them from wear and tear, says Dr. Franco. She recommends swimming, biking, brisk walking, yoga and Pilates because they are easy on the joints. “The key is to do an activity that you like, so you will stick with it,” Dr. Franco added.  

Eat a Healthy Diet
Eating a balanced diet that is low in sugar may help delay or minimize arthritic symptoms. The Arthritis Foundation recommends eating foods that have been shown to fight inflammation, strengthen bones and boost the immune system. These include fish, such as salmon, tuna, mackerel and herring, which are rich in omega-3 fatty acids – a healthy polyunsaturated fat that reduces inflammation in the body. Low-fat dairy products, like milk, yogurt and cheese and green leafy vegetables, are packed with calcium and vitamin D, both found to increase bone strength. Also on the Foundation’s list of the best foods to fight arthritis are green tea, cherries, citrus fruits, broccoli, soybeans, beans, nuts, whole grains and healthy oils like extra virgin olive oil.

Do Not Smoke
Researchers suspect smoking may ignite faulty immune responses in people who are genetically predisposed to rheumatoid arthritis. In other words, smoking may speed up the damage rheumatoid arthritis does to your joints.

Avoid Injury
A sports injury or accident can damage the cartilage in the affected joint and cause it to wear out more quickly. To avoid injury, always use the appropriate safety equipment while playing sports, learn the correct techniques and incorporate a warm-up and cool down into your routine. If you do sustain an injury, Dr. Franco recommends working with a physical therapist to ensure proper recovery and reduce the chances of further injury. “We don’t think about it when we’re young because we feel good. But those poor habits can catch up with us and lead to arthritis pain when we’re older,” she said.   

Protect Your Joints

Using the proper form when sitting, working and lifting can help protect joints from everyday strains. If you spend several hours seated on the job, make sure that your back, legs and arms are well supported and get up to move around every 20 to 30 minutes. Also beware of work that involves repetitive motion, as this can lead to an overuse injury. “Ergonomics in the workplace can help keep you pain free,” Dr. Franco added.

Check With Your Doctor
If you do start to develop arthritis, see your doctor. “The damage from arthritis is progressive, so the longer you wait to seek treatment, the more joint degeneration will occur,” said Dr. Franco. Your doctor will suggest treatments or lifestyle changes that can slow the progress of arthritis and preserve your mobility.


Baptist Health Primary Care Opens New Office in Cutler Bay
Baptist Health Primary Care has expanded with a new office in Cutler Bay, located in 19225 SW 87 Avenue, inside the East Ridge community. The physicians staffing them are: Rozan Razzouk, M.D., and Tomas Villanueva, M.D. To find a location near you and make an appointment with a primary care physician, please call 786-596-2464 or visit

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With internationally renowned centers of excellence, 12 hospitals, more than 27,000 employees, 4,000 physicians and 200 outpatient centers, urgent care facilities and physician practices spanning across Miami-Dade, Monroe, Broward and Palm Beach counties, Baptist Health is an anchor institution of the South Florida communities we serve.

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