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What is a healthy lifestyle and can it prevent osteoarthritis?

What is a healthy lifestyle? There is no definitive answer; bodies vary. However, we can simplify the topic a little and talk about a healthy lifestyle with regards to an average person who wants to prevent osteoarthritis.

So what comes to mind when we think about a healthy lifestyle?

One heuristic you can use in assessing your lifestyle, is to imagine that every choice you make is either moving you toward or away from disease. This is only a guideline and it’s not meant to make you feel additional pressure or shame. It’s simply a way of visualizing your choices and behaviours. I can’t emphasize enough that this is only a tool and you can take it or leave it.

Firstly, NUTRITION. Reduce your sugar intake. Research is showing that diabetes can be a big risk factor for osteoarthritis due to the effect of glucose on cartilage, as it causes it to stiffen. This decreases it’s ability to deal with biomechanical stress placed on it.

This includes alcohol. Alcohol has no nutritional value; alcohol is chock-full of empty calories. Many drinks also contain a lot of sugar, so consider this when you’re thinking about another soda.

Eating a balanced diet and watching what you drink also helps with weight control. Fun fact- for every pound of excess weight added to your body, almost 4 extra pounds of stress are added to your knees – ouch.

PHYSICAL ACTIVTY can help control your weight, amongst it’s many, many other benefits. The best results are going to come from a long term, tailor made programme developed by a good kinesiologist or personal trainer. In my last post, I wrote that maintaining a healthy weight combined with strengthening the quadriceps muscles decreases the risk of osteoarthritis by a huge 30% – amazing.

It is recommended that you do at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity throughout the week. This can be as simple as a 30 minute moderate intensity (a little out of breath but able to hold a conversation) walk, 5 times a week. This should be coupled with specific strengthening work on 2 or more days a week.

Strength training helps with joint protection but so does actual protective gear. Injured joints are more likely to develop osteoarthritis. Although not all injuries are avoidable, but some are, so please bear this in mind when you’re thinking about buying protective gear specific for your sport.

In addition to nutrition and physical activity, we need to think about
SLEEP: the average adult needs 7.5 – 8 hours… I need 9!
STRESS MANAGEMENT: find something that works for you, whether it’s meditation, walking the dog or catching up with a friend.
SMOKING: Please don’t.

There can be a lot of details to think about, but when you really just try to see the big picture really everyone needs support and encouragement to make simple healthy choices on a daily basis. Are we going to move toward, or away from, disease?

More reading

I find the World Health Organization has a wealth of useful information: