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If you feel pain and stiffness in your joints, you may have arthritis. This condition is caused by inflammation and swelling where two bones meet, such as in your hands, wrists, knees and hips. It's the most common reason for American disability, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Osteoarthritis is the variety that is most common as you age. It affects nearly 21 million adults and is caused by wear and tear on your joints, combined with a history of previous injuries and made worse by being overweight. Most people older than age 60 will develop some degree of osteoarthritis, and women are more susceptible than men.
How osteoarthritis is treated depends on which joint is affected, but a combination of diet, exercise and drugs are usually elements used to manage the condition. Shedding just 11 pounds can cut the incidence of osteoarthritis in the knee by 50 percent, according to the Framingham Knee Osteoarthritis study.
Control your weight by following a healthy, balanced diet filled with vegetables, fruits and whole grains. Omega-3 fatty acids, found in oily fish and other sources, help fight the inflammation leading to arthritis. At least 30 minutes of daily exercise can help keep your joints flexible and improve muscle tone. Choose water exercises if your joints are very painful. And arthritis medications range from over-the-counter painkillers like aspirin and topical creams to prescription inflammation reducers. Talk with your doctor about the best options for you.
The pain of arthritis can make continuing your "normal" lifestyle a challenge. Seek help from family, friends and professionals to manage daily tasks and your outlook on life. Learn relaxation techniques to reduce stress. Meet with an occupational therapist to discuss helpful tools—such as insoles, a cane or handrails—that may make it easier for you to get around. Small changes like this can make living with arthritis more bearable.