Keeping Joints Healthy as You Age

Joints are the connectors between bones that prevent them from rubbing together and allow you the range of movement to twist and bend. With age joints get worn down and there is a change in this mobility offered by them. As per a 2012 study conducted by the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), nearly 55% of adults face bone and joint issues such as arthritis and back pain. Since joint function and movement have a direct effect on mobility and posture, joint conditions can severely impact your quality of life.

How do joints change with age?

Cartilage and connective tissue act as cushioning between joints and helps them move effectively. In addition, the synovium membrane produces a fluid that supports cartilage health. Over time, this cushioning cartilage and connective tissue can become thin with wear and tear and degeneration associated with age. The lesser cartilage there is, the more bones grind with each other, leading to inflammation and pain in the surrounding tissue. Bone spurs may also grow due to bones scraping together. There may be inflammation and thickening of the synovium membrane with the wearing down of cartilage; with more deterioration, there may not be enough synovial fluid or cushioning to support the joints properly.

Most men and women start exhibiting signs of joint pain around the ages of 45 and 50 respectively. It is wise to take preventive measures and develop healthy a lifestyle early to avoid joint pain later in life.

The following are 5 ways to protect your joints and keep them healthy:

1. Exercise: With age, we start losing muscle mass. So, instead of the muscles supporting and absorbing the impact of daily activities, joints end up bearing the brunt leading to cartilage erosion and joint damage. It is important to strengthen supporting muscles with exercises that do not strain joints much. Exercises such as lifting builds up these muscles and provide stability to your joints.

Physical inactivity also makes joints stiff making even everyday activities painful. Regular activity keeps joints agile and moving. Low-impact exercises, such as walking, swimming, cycling, and yoga help keep joints lubricated and limit joint deterioration.

2. Maintain a healthy weight: Your joints are meant to carry a certain weight for your body frame, and exceeding that weight puts extra stress on your joints, especially the knees and the lower back. According to experts, for every additional 4-5 kgs of weight that you carry, 9-18 kgs of added force is carried by each knee. This excessive weight borne by your knees can cause them to become swollen.

The less you weigh, lesser is the pressure on your joints to support your body weight. If your weight isn’t where you want it to be, consult a physician or dietician to make and follow a healthy diet plan for you.

3. Maintain proper posture: Poor posture forces your neck and back muscles to overwork and strain your neck, back, and cause joint damage. Bad form such as prolonged slouching while sitting or standing can put undue pressure on your joints. If keeping your spine straight most of the time seems too strenuous, start by keeping your spine straight for a few minutes and then relaxing.

Another way where joints get damaged due to bad posture is while lifting heavy weights. Lifting heavy things with your back instead of squatting and then lifting them with your legs is a common mistake that leads to joint damage. You should stretch out your muscles before doing any heavy lifting and try to do so with safe technique.

4. Quit smoking: Smoking increases inflammation throughout your body and restricts blood flow to your joints. This can not only cause damage to your joints by making them swell but reduce the rate at which your body recovers from an injury.

Smoking can also alter the way your brain processes pain, with smokers feeling less aware of their pain until the effect wears off. This makes smoking doubly harmful if you are already suffering from joint pain from a condition such as osteoarthritis.

Though quitting smoking can be difficult, you can reach out to your primary healthcare provider to seek support in weaning yourself off cigarettes and other nicotine products. Within 8 hours of stopping smoking, oxygen levels in your blood rise and carbon monoxide levels return to normal—this goes a long way in reducing joint pain.

5. Replace sugary drinks and alcohol with water: Cartilage, the cushioning connective tissue that keeps your joints healthy, is 80% made of water. If your body isn’t well hydrated, it pulls water from cartilage and other areas. Lack of enough water in your body can severely dehydrate your joints and increase the chances of injury and pain.

Drinks such as sugary sodas and juices and alcohol dehydrate your body, increasing the stress of a lack of water on your joints. Replace other drinks with water as much as you can to provide your body the hydration it needs to maintain good joint health.

Joint pain isn’t something that you will most likely face until you are well into your forties, but being prepared for it with our tips will help you maintain joint health and perhaps avoid painful conditions as well. If you want more information on how to keep your joints healthy, contact us to book an appointment with our specialists at the Sagar Bone & Joint Institute.

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