Having had two hip replacements and one knee replacement, I am all too familiar with the disease known as osteoarthritis (OA).  The protective cartilage that cushions the ends of bones wears down over time, causing the painful phenomenon known as “bone on bone,” which can become excruciating at times.  This disorder affects mostly the joints in your hands, knees, hips, and spine.

Unfortunately, no cure exists for osteoarthritis.  It can be managed, however.  Staying active, maintaining a healthy weight and certain treatments may slow the progression of the disease, improve joint function, and lessen pain.   


Human SkeletonCredit: Wikimedia Commons

                                                        Human Skeleton - Wikimedia


Obesity is a major cause of osteoarthritis as well as repeated injuries to the bones.  There are more than one hundred diseases of the body under the nomenclature of arthritis.  Osteoarthritis is a disease of the joints. Unlike many other forms of arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis and systemic lupus, osteoarthritis does not affect other organs of the body.


The symptoms of arthritis include pain, tenderness, swelling, stiffness, loss of flexibility, and bone spurs.  Certain situations will make one prone to the disease.  Those who are aging, females, persons who are obese all have a greater risk of acquiring arthritis.  Genetics contribute to the incidence as well as certain occupations where one is exposed to joint injury.  Doctors have discovered that inflammation plays a bigger role in osteoarthritis than once believed.

Statistics About Osteoarthritis

More than 50 million adults have doctor-diagnosed arthritis.  That means that one of every five people over age 18 are afflicted with arthritis.  By the year 2030, more than 67 million adults will be diagnosed with arthritis.  Almost half of adults 65 years old or older have arthritis.  It is the nation’s number one cause of disability.  Persons with arthritis or a rheumatoid condition lose more workdays every year due to illness or injury than adults with any other medical condition.  Surprisingly, Blacks, Hispanics, Asians and other minority populations in the U.S. have lower rates of arthritis compared to the white population.

Treatments for Osteoarthritis

Treatments prescribed for the disease of arthritis are extremely diverse and work differently with each patient.  Symptoms are alleviated by acetaminophen, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), physical and occupational therapy, braces and shoe inserts, pain classes, acupuncture, glucosamine and chondroitin, cortisone shots, tai chi and yoga, and finally joint replacement surgery.


The following are steps to be taken to prevent osteoarthritis or its progression.     

#1 - Weight Control

Obesity is clearly a high risk factor for developing osteoarthritis.  A recent study showed that obese women were nearly four times as likely as non-obese women to have osteoarthritis. The risk for obese men was nearly five times greater than for non-obese men.

Being overweight strains the joints, particularly those that bear the body's weight such as the knees, hips, and joints of the feet, causing the cartilage to wear away.  If you already have osteoarthritis, losing weight may help improve these symptoms.

#2 – Exercise

Regular physical activity is an important strategy for relieving pain and maintaining or improving function for people with arthritis.  Despite that fact, people with arthritis are less likely to be physically active than those with arthritis.

Many have a fear of joint pain after exercise which keeps them from the activity.  Pain relievers or heat and cold on painful joints will make the task easier, and allow one to remain active.  The safest exercises are those that place the least body weight on the joints, such as bicycling, swimming, and other water exercise.


OsteoarthritisCredit: Wikimedia Commons

                                                             Osteoarthritis of the Knee                                                                                                                                           Wikimedia

#3 - Avoid Injuries or Get Early Treatment

Suffering a joint injury when you are young predisposes you to osteoarthritis in the same joint when you are older.  Injuring a joint as an adult may put the joint at even greater risk.

A recent study indicated that people who injured a knee in adolescence or young adulthood were three times more likely to develop osteoarthritis in that knee, compared with those who had not suffered an early injury. People who injured their knee as an adult had a five times greater risk of osteoarthritis in the joint.

To avoid injuries:

Do warm-up exercises before sports.

Cool down after vigorous sports.

Exercise on the softest surface available; avoid running on asphalt and concrete.

# Eat Right

Although no specific diet has been shown to prevent osteoarthritis, certain nutrients have been associated with a reduced risk of the disease or its severity. They include:

Omega-3 fatty acids - fish oil and certain plant/nut oils, including walnut, canola, soybean, flaxseed/linseed, and olive oil.

Vitamin C - green peppers, citrus fruits and juices, strawberries, tomatoes, broccoli, turnip greens and other leafy greens, sweet and white potatoes, and cantaloupe.

Vitamin D - salmon, mackerel, tuna, sardines, and herring; vitamin D-fortified milk and cereal; and eggs.

I have been fortunate to have the finest doctors care for me in my need for hip and knee replacement surgery.  It is a relatively new concept, as I remember my mother thirty years ago having the same symptoms that I developed later on, and at that time there was no surgery to relieve the pain from osteoarthritis.


I am less familiar with osteoporosis that I am with osteoarthritis.  My bone density numbers have always been within the normal range for osteoporosis, thank heaven.

Osteoporosis causes bones to become weak and brittle.  As bones weaken, your risk of a sudden and unexpected fracture increases.  There are usually no visible signs, but chances are that the first sign of osteoporosis will be a broken bone.  After the first fracture, you are at risk for more fractures. These future fractures may cause you chronic pain and disability.

If you have osteoporosis, your bones become thin, lose structure, and become fragile.  Osteopenia refers to early signs of bone loss that can turn into osteoporosis.  With osteopenia, bone mineral density is lower than normal.  However, it is not yet low enough to be considered osteoporosis. A bone density test can detect osteopenia.


OsteoporosisCredit: Wikimedia Commons

                                                                Osteoporosis - Wikimedia

During childhood, your bones become larger and stronger.  Peak bone mass usually occurs during the third decade of life when you have the maximum amount of bone mass you will ever have.  After that, the bone-building process slows down.  Osteoporosis occurs when the creation of new bone does not keep up with the removal of old bone.  The likelihood of your developing osteoporosis depends partly on how much bone mass you attained in your youth. The higher your peak bone mass, the more bone you have to fall back on, and the less likely you are to develop osteoporosis as you age.


Initially, you will have no indication that you have osteoporosis.  Once your bones have been weakened by the disease you may experience back pain, loss of height over time, a stooped posture, and fractures that occur much more easily than expected.

Mayo Clinic Guide to Preventing and Treating Osteoporosis
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Risk Factors

Certain situations will make you more prone to the disease.  For instance,

Family history: Osteoporosis seems to run in families.

Gender: Women are four times more likely than men to get osteoporosis.

Age: Women over age 50 have the greatest risk of developing osteoporosis.

Race:  You are at greatest risk of osteoporosis if you are white or of Asian descent.

Bone structure and body weight:  Petite and thin women have a greater risk of developing osteoporosis.  Weight gain decreases the risk.

History of fractures:  Having one fracture increases the chance of more fractures.

Smoking:  Increases the risk of fractures.

Excessive alcohol consumption:  Increases your risk of osteoporosis.

Medications:  Some medications may increase your risk of osteoporosis.  Long-term use of steroids such as prednisone and cortisone interferes with the bone-rebuilding process.

Menopause:  At this crucial time, there is a powerful decline in the female hormone estrogen. This decline slows the bone-building process and causes an accelerated rate of bone loss.


The most widely prescribed osteoporosis medications used for osteoporosis are Fosamax, Actonel, Atelvia, Boniva, and Reclast.  Prolonged use of these bisphosphonates, however, may cause serious side effects.  Estrogen, especially when started soon after menopause, can help maintain bone density.

In addition, weight-bearing exercises, and cessation of smoking are advantageous in slowing the progression of osteoporosis.

A bone mineral density test (BMD) can provide information about your bone health before problems begin. Bone mineral density tests use very small amounts of radiation to determine the strength of your bones.  In most cases, only a few bones are checked, usually in the hip, wrist and spine.


OsteoporosisCredit: Wikimedia Commons

                                                                Osteoporosis - Wikimedia


Three factors are essential for keeping your bones healthy throughout your life:  adequate amounts of calcium, adequate amounts of vitamin D, and regular exercise.

Calcium is obtained through dairy products, dark green leafy vegetables, canned salmon or sardines, tofu, cereals and orange juice, and calcium supplements.  Total calcium intake from supplements and diet combined, should be no more than 2,000 milligrams daily for people older than 50.  Too much calcium can put you at risk for kidney stones.

Vitamin D improves your body's ability to absorb calcium.  The Institute of Medicine advises 600 to 800 international units (IU) a day, through food or supplements.

Exercise, or a change from the sedentary life, can help you build strong bones and slow bone loss.

Good health!  I hope this information proves valuable in changing your lifestyle for the better.