The fact is, there is no sure way to prevent arthritis. But you can help to prevent, that is, reduce your risk, and delay the potential onset of certain types of arthritis. If you have healthy joints right now, do all you can now to maintain mobility and function and avoid the pain and disability associated with arthritis.
There are more than 100 types of arthritis and related conditions, and have all have risk factors, individual features, behaviors and circumstances that are associated with the disease.
There are risk factors that are not modifiable. That means there is nothing you can do about them. Being female and having a family history of arthritis (genetic profile) are two examples of factors that make people more likely – but not certain — to get some types of arthritis.
In contrast, some risk factors are considered to be modifiable. They are the behaviors and circumstances that can be changed in order to reduce risk, delay onset or altogether prevent arthritis. Here are just a few examples arthritis and related diseases and associated modifiable risk factors:
- Osteoarthritis – Maintain a healthy weight
- Rheumatoid arthritis – Do not smoke
- Gout – Eat a healthful diet, low in sugar, alcohol and purines
In some cases, preventing a prior incident can significantly reduce the risk of arthritis. Avoiding sports injuries through proper equipment, adequate training and safe play can prevent ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) tears that may lead to osteoarthritis in a few years or several decades later.
Right now, because scientists don’t fully understand the causes or mechanisms behind these diseases, true prevention seems to be impossible. However, there is real hope that someday some or all types of arthritis and related conditions can be prevented. The breakthroughs may be closer than they seem. Consider this: Many types of arthritis are thought to result from a combination of genetic predisposition and an environmental trigger, such as a virus or toxin. Discovery of the trigger for a type of arthritis may be the key to its prevention, even in someone with genetic risk.
As the rate of discoveries is accelerated by the Arthritis Foundation scientific program the search for preventions — and cures, too – may soon become reality.