It is easy to ignore joint health when we are young and active. Our joints give our skeletons the ability to bend, thanks to their location at the meeting point of any two bones. This bending lets us go about our routine, performing various tasks with ease. Can you imagine life without joints? We’d just be a bag of bones!
Our joints also have cartilage that lines both ends of the bones. Cartilage cushions the bones in our joints. Over the years, this cartilage undergoes wear and tear, which, when neglected, often results in osteoarthritis and arthritis. Both are painful conditions.
Looking after our joints at an early age can ensure that they are strong enough to support us for years to come.
How can we do this?
Here are 5 ways to protect our joints and keep them healthy.
Take care of your joints
We perform a variety of tasks and activities. Some are harder on the joints than others. This puts us at greater risk of injury. For example, participating in martial art sparring puts joints at risk of injury. Jogging on the pavement can damage the joints and cartilage.
Try and choose low-impact exercise such as swimming, walking, bicycling, etc. If you must take part in higher-risk activities, be aware of precautions to take to protect your joints. Wear protective gear such as elbow pads, knee pads, knee braces, etc.
Also, use your larger joints such as your elbows and shoulders to carry your purse or bag, instead of the smaller hand joints.
If you happen to be injured, stop the activity right away and seek treatment so you can recover before there’s further damage to the joints.
Maintain a healthy weight
Being overweight can overload your weight bearing joints in your legs: the knees, hips and ankles. This means it is important to maintain a healthy weight by taking steps to lose excess weight. When you gain weight, the joints become sore and you end up exercising less. Consult your doctor or personal trainer for advice on how to lose weight so you can get back on track with your health.
Include strength-training in your workout
Strengthening the muscles around your joints helps them to support our joints. This helps reduce the stress on the joints. Work on strengthening your quadriceps and hamstring muscles in the front and back of your thighs so that your knee joints get more support. This also minimizes your chances of osteoarthritis in your knees.
Work on strengthening your abdominal muscles. With stronger abdominals, you improve your balance and prevent damage to your joints. You also lower your chances of falls.
Pay attention to your diet
Be mindful of what you eat. Some foods trigger inflammation in the body, including the joints. Include food with Omega 3, which reduce inflammation. Examples are cold water fish like salmon. Alternately, consult with your doctor for supplements. Be cautious about adding additional Omega 6 foods to your diet as this is known to increase inflammation.
How to reduce inflammation in your body? Here are five quick tips:
- Include anti-inflammatory foods in your diet (fruits and vegetables)
- Remove inflammatory foods from your diet (examples are processed foods,processed meats, sugary drinks, trans fats, white flour baked goods, white pasta, gluten, soybean oil and vegetable oil, processed snack foods like chips and crackers, candy, excess alcohol, simple carbohydrates, etc.)
- Control your blood sugar
- Exercise regularly
- Manage stress
- Drink enough water and get enough sleep
Left uncontrolled, chronic inflammation can damage your arteries, organs and joints. This leads to chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, obesity, Alzheimer’s, and even cancer. Switch to a healthy lifestyle to prevent this.
Talk to your doctor about supplements to strengthen your joints. Supplements are reported to build up cartilage in the body.