Women and Osteoarthritis
A Look Into Risks and Prevention
Osteoarthritis (OA) is the clinical name for “wear and tear” on joints occurring most frequently in knees, hips, and hands. Osteoarthritis impacts millions of Americans but is slightly more prevalent in women. It is estimated that one in five adults has osteoarthritis, 24 million women and 17 million men according to the Arthritis Foundation. Two main factors come into play: gender and genetics.
Research has shown that female hormones affect the cartilage between bones and joints providing cushioning so the joints can move smoothly. When menopause occurs, estrogen levels drop meaning they lose that extra protection. This has been shown to still be true even in cases where women are receiving hormone-replacement therapy after menopause. A lack of testosterone may also put women at risk. Testosterone is key in building strong muscles which leads to healthier joints.
The amount of full-term childbirths a woman has had also plays a part in the chances of developing knee or hip arthritis. A study of more than 1600 women aged 50 to 79 who had given birth to 5 to 12 children was 2.6 times more likely to have a knee replacement than a woman who gave birth to only one child.
If a family member has OA, you are more likely to have it. This has also been shown to be more true with women. If your mother was diagnosed with OA, you will likely experience issues in the same joints around the same age she was. This is especially true in cases of hand and knee osteoarthritis.
So what can I do to avoid OA?
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Being overweight or obese adds extra weight on your joints. Losing weight lessens the pressure on those weight-bearing joints and increases your mobility
- Be active
- Exercise is an incredible tool for OA, it can increase flexibility, boost your mood, strengthen your muscles and heart, and increase blood flow. If you already have joint issues, try lower-impact exercises such as swimming or yoga to stay active and in shape.
- Speak up
- If you are experiencing a lot of pain or interference in your everyday activities, even something as simple as walking down the stairs, let your doctor know
Though it may seem difficult to avoid Osteoarthritis, there are treatment options available to you. If you have any questions or concerns about OA don’t hesitate to get in touch with us at 910.295.0224.
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