3 top tips on maintaining healthy joints in the winter
Expert advice from experienced GP Anita Herdeiro of Scalesceugh Hall & Villas ......................... Joint disease, as you would expect, is very common among the older age group. In fact, with 10 million people affected in the UK, it is the greatest cause of years-lived-with-disability in the UK. Arthritis can affect people all through the year, however the winter and wet weather months can make it harder to manage the symptoms. Osteoarthritis (OA) is the main cause of chronic joint pain in older people. Pain from OA has been linked to depression/anxiety as both cause and effect, either directly or mediated through physical functioning. The concept of successful ageing focuses on overcoming problems, in contrast to the concept of resilience, which can acknowledge vulnerability. Theory of successful ageing is continued through the promotion of physical, psychological and social activity as the ideal. 3 top tips to reduce those joint pains... 1. Exercise Concentrate on exercises that get the heart rate up and reduce swelling, such as non weight-bearing exercises – cycling or swimming. Exercises that improve the core stability are excellent for maintenance of balance and prevent falls that can damage your joints. Focusing on chest, back and the abdomen, exercises such as yoga and Tai Chi are excellent for improving core stability. Although it is important to exercise and get the heart rate going, listening to the body and understanding the difference between “threatening pain“ and good muscle-building pain is very important to help build up stretch and also prevent injury. Posture is another point that is very important for core and joint strengthening. Avoid slouching, utilise larger joints to help lift heavier objects, ie bend the knees and not the back when lifting items. Good posture also helps guard your hip joint and hip muscles. 2. Supplements There is a vast array of products but many don't have research evidence to prove they work. That does not mean people do not find them helpful. The most common are glucosamine, chondroitin and omega-3 fish oil, such as cod liver oil. Calcium and Vitamin D are medically recognised to keep bones healthy and prevent osteoporosis. Glucosamine with chondroitin can be a supplement used for the knees, with chemicals that are part of the make-up of normal cartilage. The theory is that they may help repair damaged cartilage. Although there are few side effects, people with seafood allergies should be aware that some of the products are derived from crushed crustacean shells. If you take blood thinning agents such as warfarin, best to check with the GP before taking these supplements. Cod liver oil is traditionally taken to help keep joints supple and flexible. Rich in omega-3 fatty acids, there is evidence to suggest it helps patients with inflammatory illness, such as arthritis. 3. Healthy Diet Good weight management is very important to reduce the pressure on the joints, especially the knees, hips and back. Research has shown that with every pound gained, a person puts four times more stress on the knees. A healthy diet is important for the joints – high calcium products such as dairy are good to consume. Eating for your bones needn’t be boring; there are lots of delicious meals and snacks packed full of the vitamins and minerals you need, and they don’t have to be fattening. Eating Tips Eat plenty of wholegrain foods such as brown rice and pulses for more minerals, vitamins and fibre. Eat more fruit and vegetables; at least five portions a day (a portion is about the amount in a handful). Choose lots of different-coloured fruit and vegetables to ensure you get the range of essential nutrients you need, including some calcium. Eat more fish; try for two portions a week and remember oily fish, such as mackerel, are also a good source of vitamin D. Cut down on saturated fats and sugar. Check out the food labels: 5g or more of saturated fat per 100g and 10g or more of sugars per 100g is a lot. Try to cut down on the amount of salt you eat. Again, check out the food labels and remember that 0.5g or more of sodium per 100g is high. Don’t skip food early in the morning. If you don’t feel hungry when you wake up, start with a healthy snack and have regular meals throughout the day to maintain your health and wellbeing. Good sources of calcium include: Milk, cheese and other dairy foods Green leafy vegetables, such as broccoli, cabbage and okra, but not spinach Soya beans Tofu (pictured) Soya drinks with added calcium Nuts Bread and anything made with fortified flour Fish where you eat the bones, such as sardines and pilchards.