All About Osteoarthritis: Facts and Myths

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Join me on my "I Fit and Healthy" journey! Maria is an Upstate New Yorker interested in all things healthy-living related! She started the "I Fit and Healthy" Blog to document life and her pursuit of healthy living. By day she work in digital media and advertising. By night she’s a first-rate wife and mom of two crazy little girls! She is self-proclaimed addicted to her iPhone/iPad and always on the hunt for the latest health tools and fitness gadgets.

Maybe you have read All About Osteoarthritis ($24.70 Amazon.com), but what about common osteoarthritis facts and myths? Do you know what they are? What is osteoarthritis anyway?

According to Taste For Life magazine, the most common form of arthritis (joint inflammation) is osteoarthritis, (a.k.a. ‘wear and tear arthritis’) “for the damage it inflicts on the cartilage lining the ends of bones.

Osteoarthritis is actually a complicated disease process in which cartilage cells (and other cells in and around the joint) alter the fine balance between the buildup and breakdown of the components that make up the cartilage structure.”

Myth: Osteoarthritis is not a concern for young people.

Fact: Osteoarthritis can start as early as in your 20s, especially in athletes who have suffered either a series of minor injuries or one or more injuries to a joint.

Myth: When your joints ache, you should avoid exercise.

Fact: A joint that shows signs of inflammation – swelling, warmth, or redness – should be treated with rest and ice. But if the symptoms are chronic and there is no active inflammation, some exercises can help strengthen bones and joints.

Low-impact exercises (biking, swimming, walking on a forgiving surface, and controlled weight training) can actually improve osteoarthritis symptoms and may even slow the disease process.

Myth: Nutritional supplements do not work.

Fact: More than 35 human clinical studies find glucosamine and chondroitin effective in alleviating joint pain and stiffness and in improving joint function. The European organization for rheumatology EULAR recommends these supplements for treating osteoarthritis.

The U.S. medical community has recently begun embracing supplements as well. One study found that glucosamine and chondroitin outperformed Celebrex (celecoxib), a prescription drug for osteoarthritis.

X-rays show that people who take these supplements long-term have improvements in cartilage structure, compared to those taking a placebo.

Myth: All glucosamine and chondroitin formulas are alike.

Fact: While the FDA regulates dietary supplements, the quality of products on the market may vary. Look for a product that has clinical evidence to back up its claims. And get researched dosage of at least 1,500 mg of glucosamine and 800 to 1,200 mg of chondroitin per day.

Do not choose products simply based on price, since lower-priced products often contain cheaper ingredients that sometimes may be less active or even inactive.

Myth: Diet is not important in maintaining joint health.

Fact: Besides the obvious point that lowering your body weight will reduce stress on weight-bearing joints, many foods help your body fight osteoarthritis. Omega-3 oils (healthy fats) found in flaxseeds and fish (especially salmon, sardines, anchovies, and herring) have an anti-inflammatory effect on inflamed joints.

For those who do not consume much fish, consider concentrated and highly purified omega-3 supplements. Antioxidants, commonly found in fruits and vegetables, also slow the damage to cartilage from osteoarthritis.

Ideally, consume five to ten servings of fruits and vegetables each day, and consider taking antioxidant supplements containing vitamins A, C, E, and the mineral selenium.

Work with your physician to uncover medical conditions you may have that can lead to osteoarthritis, and always consult your physician before taking any supplements.

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