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To Your Health: Manage arthritis through exercise, doctor’s care

While the word arthritis means joint inflammation, the term arthritis includes more than 100 different rheumatic diseases and conditions. About one out of every five adults in the United States has been diagnosed with arthritis. It is the nation's most common cause of disability.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that more than 22.7 million adults have limitations because of arthritis. Arthritis causes work limitations for 30 percent of working-age people with the condition.

In general, common symptoms of arthritis include pain, aching, stiffness and swelling in and around joints. Some forms of arthritis can include widespread symptoms that affect multiple organs. Symptoms can develop gradually or suddenly.

Arthritis can also affect the management of other chronic diseases, such as heart disease and diabetes. About half of adults with heart disease also have arthritis and about half of adults with diabetes also have arthritis.

The risk of developing arthritis does increase with age, but it is important to note that nearly two-thirds of people with arthritis are younger than 65. Generally, women are at a higher risk for arthritis than men, though men may be at higher risk for certain types of arthritis, such as gout.

According to the CDC, adults with arthritis were about 2.5 times more likely to have two or more falls and suffer a fall injury in the past 12 months compared with adults without arthritis.

The CDC Arthritis Program has five key takeaways to help with managing arthritis:

1. See your doctor: Early diagnosis and management guided by your health care provider are very important and help you maintain a good quality of life. The focus of treatment for arthritis is to control pain, minimize joint damage and improve or maintain function and quality of life. Treatment of arthritis might involve the use of medications, physical or occupational therapy, splints or joint assistive aids, and surgery.

2. Learn arthritis management strategies: Self-management education can help you gain skills so you can live well with arthritis on a daily basis. These education programs will teach you techniques that will help you better manage arthritis symptoms.

3. Protect your joints: Avoiding injuries can reduce the likelihood of developing osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis.

4. Watch your weight: Maintaining a healthy weight can limit the progress of disease; help protect your joints from injury; and reduce the chance of activity limitation. A third of obese adults have arthritis. Adults with obesity and arthritis were 44 percent more likely to be physically inactive compared with obese adults without arthritis. For every pound lost, there is a 4 pound reduction in the load exerted on the knee. Even a modest 5 percent weight loss can help reduce pain and disability.

5. Be active: Research shows that physical activity decreases pain, improves function and delays disability. It is suggested that people with arthritis should strive for at least 150 minutes of moderate activity each week. Physical activity is an effective way to control weight, strengthen bones and muscles, and improve mental health and mood. Regular exercise can improve a person's ability to enjoy daily activities and, for older adults, exercise may even help prevent falls.

Daily exercise can also reduce the risk of certain chronic diseases. Most people with arthritis can safely participate in a self-directed physical activity program or join one of many proven programs available in communities across the country.

The nice thing about exercise is it is never too late to begin a fitness program. Sometimes we all need a little jump-start to get motivated or learn some new exercise techniques.

To help jump-start your fitness routine or perhaps revitalize your existing practice, Boulder City Hospital is offering an exercise program developed by the Arthritis Foundation. These classes, led by Boulder City Hospital's Occupational Therapist Dana Lyons are specifically designed for individuals with or without arthritis. The program includes gentle activities to help increase joint flexibility, range of motion and help maintain muscle strength. Exercises are performed while sitting or standing on the floor and classes are tailored to the individual needs of the class participants.

The program runs now through March 1. Classes are held at Boulder City Hospital from 2-3 p.m. on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons. There is a $3 fee per class session. Space is limited and registration is required.

To reserve your space or learn more about the program, call 702-294-5726.

Further information, including information on physical activity programs and self-management education programs, can be found at www.cdc.gov/arthritis.

To Your Health is written by the staff of Boulder City Hospital. For more information, call 702-293-4111, ext. 576, or visit bouldercityhospital.org.

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