Rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis are the two most common types of arthritis in the UK. Arthritis is the name for a number of joint conditions that cause pain and inflammation in a joint. What distinguishes rheumatoid arthritis from its common counterpart is the underlying cause.
Osteoarthritis is caused by the low level damage of normal life, whereas rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune condition.
This means the body’s immune system targets affected joints, which leads to pain and swelling.
According to the NHS, the main symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis are joint pain, swelling and stiffness.
“It can cause problems in any joint in the body, although the small joints in the hands and feet are often the first to be affected,” explains the health body.
Can it be treated?
Unfortunately, there is no cure for rheumatoid arthritis, but you can alleviate symptoms by making simple lifestyle changes.
Making healthy dietary decisions may make your arthritis more manageable.
As the Arthritis Foundation (AF) explains, diet won’t cure rheumatoid arthritis, but the right food choices can help by controlling the inflammation that wreaks havoc in the body, delivering nutrients your body needs and helping you maintain a healthy weight.
“That’s important because excess weight adds to pressure on achy joints and can make certain rheumatoid arthritis meds less effective,” explains the AF.
What’s more, body fat produces proteins called cytokines that promote inflammation, it says.
Studies show that a Mediterranean diet, with lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains and healthy fats is a good choice for people with rheumatoid arthritis.
Exercise also aids weight loss and brings direct benefits for people with rheumatoid arthritis.
As the NHS explains, exercising regularly can help relieve stress, help keep your joints mobile, and strengthen the muscles supporting your joints.
“Exercise can also help you lose weight if you’re overweight, which can put extra strain on your joints,” notes the health body.
Find the best activities and the right balance for you – it’s usually best to increase the amount of exercise you do gradually, it adds.
“Ideally, we should all aim to do at least 30 minutes of exercise that makes us a bit short of breath five times a week,” explains Versus Arthritis.
It adds: “Try three or four 10-minute sessions throughout the day if it suits you better than doing it in one go.”
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