The idea that arthritis is a disease that manifests with old age is false. In fact, osteoarthritis – the most common form of arthritis – is more prevalent in those younger than 65 than older. A recent study revealed that 30% of people living with osteoarthritis were actually diagnosed before 45.
“Arthritis is serious. Full stop. For too long people with arthritis have had to convince others of the seriousness of their condition and the validity of their pain,” says Trish Barbato, Arthritis Society President and CEO. “We’re here extinguish the phrase, ‘it’s just arthritis.’ Because, there’s nothing just about arthritis.”
Over 6 million Canadians of all ages are affected by it. And more women than men seem to be affected. Women also often experience worse pain –ache in different joints – and are far more vulnerable to rheumatoid arthritis, one of the most debilitating forms of the condition.
Estrogen also plays a factor as it is key to keeping inflammation down in the body. As women age, their hormones change and with menopause, this shift in hormone levels is often followed by arthritis. Researchers are trying to unravel this complexity as they see connections between puberty, childbirth and the use of hormone replacement therapy.
Weight is another factor where we see higher rates of obesity in women in Canada and that adds to pressure on knee joints, eroding the cartilage and opening the door to arthritis. Family genealogy is also considered to be a factor.
So what are your options to treat arthritis? It depends on the type you have and how far along you are and where it is.
For some it is relatively mild with flare ups and can be managed through lifestyle changes and/or minor pain relievers, for others it may require stronger medications.
Research has shown that diet can play a big role in the prevention and management of arthritis. Lowering inflammation is key – increasing water, lowering the intake of sugar and processed foods – maybe even moving to a more plant-based diet.
If detected earlier in life, treatment seems to be less onerous and can play a role as women age.
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