OA Diagnosis: Why Weight Loss Matters
Reaching a healthy weight eases the pain of osteoarthritis (OA) and may even help slow the disease.
If you’ve just been diagnosed with OA, there’s lots you can do to ease your pain and protect your joints. If you aren’t already at a healthy weight, then weight loss can make a big difference. Here’s why.
Your joints take a beating with every step – about one-and-a-half times your body weight when you are walking on a flat surface. If you go uphill, the pressure increases to two or three times your body weight. Over a lifetime, that’s a lot of pounding.
When you have arthritis, your joints often go out of alignment. This places even more pressure on those joints. In fact, every pound puts four times the pressure on your arthritic knees. So, a five-pound weight loss takes 20 pounds of extra stress off your joints.
Extra pounds can cause joint problems in another way, too. Fat – especially the kind that collects around your middle – makes chemicals that cause low-grade inflammation throughout your body. This means your knee OA can get worse, and you can develop OA joints like your hands and shoulders too. So, shedding pounds can make a big difference.
Losing weight can help save the tissue (cartilage) that covers the ends of the bones. That may slow down how quickly your OA gets worse. The more weight lost, the lower the speed of disease progression.
Weight Loss Is Hard
Most people who carry extra pounds want to lose them. They diet, join a gym, even get counseling. But despite their efforts, they may never quite reach their goal. Or, they may drop a lot of weight, only to gain it back. If this sounds like you, don’t be hard on yourself.
Easy access to cheap, high-calorie, low-nutrient foods, like soda and burgers is much to blame. Loaded with sugar, salt and fat, these foods appeal to the brain’s reward centers. Extra-large portions are also part of the story, as well as busy schedules that don’t allow time to make healthy meals.
You Can Succeed
Experts say answer to the dieting cycle is to not diet or deprive yourself. Instead, change the way you eat, exercise and deal with the reasons you overeat.
Not sure how to get started? Ask your doctor to recommend a registered dietitian. This expert uses proven strategies that empower you to make real changes for a lifetime.
Another option is to look for a weight-loss program that’s backed by research with a track record of success, such as Take Off Pounds Sensibly. This nonprofit program is inexpensive and provides support, education about food and fitness advice.
Here’s a good way to start eating healthier today: chose lots of vegetables and fruits, lean protein, whole grains and healthy fats like avocado and nuts.
Why weight matters when it comes to joint pain. https://www.health.harvard.edu/pain/why-weight-matters-when-it-comes-to-joint-pain
Urban H and Little CB. The role of fat and inflammation in the pathogenesis and management of osteoarthritis. https://academic.oup.com/rheumatology/article/57/suppl_4/iv10/4850525
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