While being overweight can have many ill effects, less commonly known is the way it affects your joints. If you are concerned about arthritis due to unsteady or aching joints, a good preventive measure is to make sure you aren’t overweight. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 1 in 3 obese Americans are diagnosed with arthritis; considering that 2 out of 3 Americans are either overweight or obese, this becomes a serious threat to joint health.
There are several ways in which being overweight can affect your joints. The most common form of arthritis, osteoarthritis, is caused by wear and tear of cartilage, spongy tissue that cushions ends of bones and aids in smooth articulation at joints. While walking, weight-bearing joints such as the knees and hips can bear up to 5 times your body’s weight. This factor increases with activities such as climbing stairs or getting in and out of a car. If you are overweight, the excess pressure is multiplied, putting a lot of strain on these joints. This excess pressure on the joints can lead to wear-and-tear of the cartilage, or aggravate joint conditions that already exist.
Strong muscles help disperse pressure around joints. Being overweight is usually associated with a sedentary lifestyle. This can weaken muscles and cause more pressure on the joints. Excess fat can alter gait, posture and joint positioning, further straining joints. Besides this, fat releases chemicals that promote inflammation and conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and gout, which affect the joint.
Severe arthritis may necessitate a joint replacement. However obesity is often associated with other health conditions that could contraindicate you from surgery due to the high risk for complications. Even if you are able to undergo surgery, your treated joints may not be able heal well with the excess weight.
Losing weight can keep your joint ailments at bay, reducing symptoms and disease progression. According to a study, young obese women reduced their risk of developing osteoarthritis by 50% with every 11 pounds lost. Specifically, knee osteoarthritis dropped by 20% when men with body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher was lowered to 25 to 29.9, and dropped by 30% in women of the same age.
Weight loss is a long-term commitment and can be achieved with discipline and persistence. Here are a few suggestions to help you lose those extra pounds and maintain those changes as a way of life: