Q. Last week you gave me some good ideas for ways to take proactive steps to help control my arthritis. Do you have any suggestions for long-term goals to make my life with arthritis a little easier?Last week you gave me some good ideas for ways to take proactive steps to help control my arthritis. Do you have any suggestions for long-term goals to make my life with arthritis a little easier?
— Joe, La Cañada
Protect your joints
Avoid excess stress on your joints. Use larger or stronger joints to carry things. Assistive devices can make tasks at home and work easier. Staying close to your recommended weight also helps relieve damaging pressure on hips and knees.
Exercise helps lessen pain; an increase range of movement, reduces fatigue and helps you feel better overall. Your doctor, a physical therapist, or other specially trained health professionals can show you range-of-motion exercises and strengthening exercises that are good for arthritis. The Arthritis Foundation also offers water, as well as land exercise classes. Contact the YMCA for details.
Learn something new about arthritis. Building an understanding of your disease is an important step in managing it.
Resolve to reduce
Lose weight. You will not just look better; you will feel better, too. Why? Every extra pound you carry around translates to added stress to your knees and hips. Excess weight can mean more pain, no matter which form of arthritis you have. It can also contribute to and aggravate osteoarthritis, while increasing your risk of gout.
Stock up on your favorite source of calcium. A diet rich in this important mineral can help decrease your risk of osteoporosis. If you don’t like drinking milk — or want some variety — try consuming more milk products, such as yogurt, cheese and ice cream. Or add powdered milk to puddings, gravies, shakes and other recipes. Other good sources of calcium are broccoli, salmon (with the bones) and kale.
Do drugs, the right way
Take your medication just as your doctor prescribes. If you’re tempted to stop because you feel it’s not working or you believe it’s causing side effects, call your doctor first. It can take weeks — or even months — for the full benefits of a medication to become apparent, and some side effects ease over time. Stopping a medication abruptly may not only cause you to miss out on its benefits — in some cases it can be downright dangerous.
Begin with breakfast
Put up the pastry and grab some fruit, fiber (like oatmeal) and a tall glass of water instead of coffee. Like you’ve always heard, a healthful breakfast is a great way to start the day.
Keeping a journal is fun and therapeutic. Best of all, there are no rules. Write about your feelings, fears, frustrations and fun times. Write about things you’d never tell another living soul. Write about anything — or nothing in particular. Just write.
Make a pack
When joints are hot and inflamed, applying something cold can decrease pain and swelling by constricting blood vessels and preventing fluids from leaking into surrounding tissues. Our favorite ice pack: a bag of frozen peas or corn that can be molded to the shape of your body.
Play 20 questions
Well, maybe not 20, but write down questions about your condition or your medications as you think of them. Prioritize them and slip them into your purse or wallet before your next doctor’s visit. When you see the doctor, you’ll have your top concerns at your fingertips.
Want to know more? Visit www.arthritis.org for more information.
NANCY TURNEY received a bachelor’s degree in social work and a certificate in gerontology. If you have a specific question you would like answered in this column, e-mail it to email@example.com or call Turney at the Crescenta-Cañada YMCA, 790-0123, ext. 225.