There are many types of arthritis, and osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common form of arthritis. OA usually affects the hands, hips, and knees, when the cartilage that cushions the ends of the bones break down over time.
A study has shown that one in three Malaysians over the age of 55 suffers from osteoarthritic pain.
Although OA often occurs due to old age, sometimes it can be seen among young adults who had previous joint injuries resulting from sports injuries or accidents. Patients with OA will exhibit symptoms such as joint pain and stiffness, and have a limited range of movement.
In the 2019 National Health and Morbidity Survey, 50.1 per cent of Malaysia’s adult population was reported to be overweight (30.4 per cent) or obese (19.7 per cent). It comes as no surprise that obesity can increase the risk factor for a number of health issues including osteoarthritis.
Excess body weight can put stress on the joints, especially in areas such as the knees, hips, feet, and ankles, leading to OA and other related joint conditions.
While the causative agents of OA can be attributed to several factors, certain lifestyle changes, especially in young adults, can play a role in reducing bone and joints related inflammation.
Incorporating movement in your daily routine and practising cleaner eating habits form a majority of these changes.
Kickstart Your Workout Journey With Low-Impact Exercises
Low-impact exercises such as cycling, swimming and brisk walking help with our overall fitness. They can improve cardiovascular health, help you lose weight, and gives the least aggravation to joint pain.
- Cycling: A low-impact exercise that places little stress on the joints and help improve strength, balance, and coordination. However, be mindful to not overtrain your knees to avoid cycling knee pain. A good tip is to do appropriate warm-ups before a ride, as this will help stretch your muscles and increase stamina. Take breaks in between as well, and stretch after a long ride. If you are biking indoors or ‘spinning’ with a stationary bike, adjust the bike seat to a proper height to avoid putting unnecessary pressure on your knees.
- Swimming: Aquatic exercises are activities that are ideal for preventing osteoarthritis, and helps relieve pain and stiffness for those who have osteoarthritis. When we swim, around 90 per cent of our body weight is supported by the water, as its buoyancy will reduce stress and impact on your joints.
- Brisk walking: A simple and accessible form of physical activity that can be done both indoors or outdoors. A report has found that less than 10 minutes of brisk walking a day can help prevent disabilities in people with arthritis. Before you start your walk, it is important to pick the right shoes. Shoes that are comfortable, supportive, and fits perfectly, are ideal, and even better if they come with cushioning that can aid in shock absorbing.
Incorporate Good Nutrition In Your Daily Meals
To achieve overall good heath, eat the right kinds of food, and exercise regularly. A balanced, nutritious meal will help fuel your body for daily activities. Foods that are known to reduce inflammation in the body are essential for people with osteoarthritis to prevent further damage to the joints.
- Vitamin D and calcium: Vitamins and minerals are beneficial for health, and Vitamin D is key in promoting good bone health and boosting immune systems and body muscles. Minerals such as calcium helps to protect your bones and build bone density.
- Vitamin C: Vitamin C is important for healthy gums and healthy bones, and studies have associated increased Vitamin C levels with greater bone density. It is both a vitamin and an antioxidant that can help to develop cartilage, which protects the knee joint. Fruits such as papayas, oranges, grapefruits, and strawberries, and also vegetables such as cauliflowers, broccolis, and tomatoes are packed with Vitamin C.
- Healthy fats: People with OA are more likely to have high blood cholesterol, and reducing cholesterol may improve the symptoms. However, this does not mean that you should avoid all kinds of fatty foods. The most popular healthy fats are Omega-6 and Omega-3. The consumption of Omega-3 is beneficial for cardiovascular health, and can help to reduce joint pain and increase grip strength. Fishes such as salmons, mackerels and sardines are packed with Omega-3 fatty acids.
- Maintain a healthy weight: Malaysia is blessed with an abundance of delicious food, but we should be mindful of what we consume. Weight plays a huge role in contributing to OA, as the excess body weight will not only increase the strain on joints, but also can also cause inflammation, which can worsen the symptoms. This can make it hard for you to function normally and perform daily tasks, as your body mobility will be limited. Losing weight will not only improve joint health, but also prevent non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as diabetes and heart disease.
Consult Your Doctor
People are often unsure when they need an orthopaedic surgeon. If you have been feeling prolonged pain, tenderness, or stiffness in one or more joints, or other symptoms such as difficulty while doing daily activities, or clicking and cracking sounds when you walk, do not delay treatment, and seek medical attention to avoid permanent joint damage and other serious health issues.
It is a myth that OA only happens to older people. Young adults who had sports injuries and have genetic factors are also prone to the disease. It is best to consult a doctor, especially one with familiar with OA, to work on a diet plan or exercise regime that suits your condition.
Overall, we should practise a healthy lifestyle by keeping yourself active and consuming food packed with nutrition. Patients with osteoarthritis may often feel restrained from performing certain simple day-to-day tasks such as walking up and down the stairs, due to knee pain. Exercising regularly and consuming healthy foods can help to improve your body mobility and general health.
Dr G Ruslan Nazaruddin Simanjuntak is a consultant orthopaedic, arthritis and sports surgeon at Alty Orthopaedic Hospital.
- This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of CodeBlue.