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Maintaining Joint Health In Your 50s And Beyond

Maintaining Joint Health In Your 50s And Beyond
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It’s no secret that joint health can decline with age, and those of us over 50 seem to be particularly prone to conditions such as arthritis. The question is why arthritis affects so many of us, and what we can do to fight the impacts on our health and wellbeing.

Understanding Your Joints

Joints are any part of the body where two bones connect with another. That said, certain joints seem to be affected far more by age than others. Knees and hips are frequently affected by osteoarthritis, while rheumatoid arthritis may affect anything from fingers to elbows.

When two bones meet at a joint, the ends of these bones are coated in a layer of cartilage. This cartilage prevents the bones from rubbing against one another. Sadly, as we age this cartilage can start to wear thin, causing joint discomfort. In more severe cases the cartilage may wear unevenly, or even wear through entirely. In any case, the likelihood of inflammation increases with age.

Like a good pair of garden shears, joints are also kept lubricated so they move smoothly. Sadly, as inflammation increases, so the fluid in question can struggle to do its job. The inflammation may also lead to swelling in the joints.

Tendons and ligaments may also become brittle with age, which can reduce joint flexibility, and may prevent you from enjoying the things you once did.

Lastly, as lubrication declines and cartilage thins the ends of your bones may come into contact with one another. This friction isn’t just uncomfortable, but can also encourage your body to produce extra bone as a coping mechanism. Sadly, these extra bone spurs can lead to further discomfort, and may also reduce joint mobility.

Fortunately, medical science has graced us with a number of ways in which we can maintain joint health, both minimizing discomfort while assisting with range of movement…

Avoidance of Trauma

Whilst joints naturally age alongside us, there is evidence to suggest that trauma may exacerbate the effects. For example, a study of joint health in older people found that osteoarthritis, while quite common in knees and hips, tends to only be found in ankles where previous trauma has occurred.

Taking proper care of yourself and minimizing the risk of injury to joints may therefore be an effective way to control some forms of joint degeneration. As we age it makes sense to avoid situations which could result in damage to joints, such as climbing ladders, carrying overly heavy objects or walking on ice or snow.

Stretching

While stretching has not been shown to impact cartilage thickness, it can offer another significant benefit. Stretching may help to keep tendons and ligaments supple, thus maintaining a larger range of movement. Stretching exercises do not need to be extreme; applying gentle pressure on a regular basis can be highly effective, with even gentle physical like Tai Chi showing positive impacts.

Exercise

The great irony of more senior joints is that just as movement becomes more challenging and less comfortable, so it’s importance grows. Numerous studies have found that regular exercise is effective at not only reducing the disability caused by arthritis, but can also be a drug-free way to reduce joint pain.

As with all things, the key is moderation. Gentle exercise allows you to receive the full benefit whilst minimizing any discomfort. It has been suggested by experts that you should aim for 30-60 minutes of exercise, at least three times a week. This can take a variety of forms, from a brisk walk to playing low intensity sport. Aquatic exercise also shows benefits, so swimming or aqua aerobics can also be considered.

As exercise can have positive benefits, but may become more challenging with age, the best solution is to instigate regular exercise before discomfort becomes too severe. In this way you will benefit from its protective benefits before it becomes too difficult.

Weight Loss

Joint problems can occur in almost any part of the body but are often most common in so-called “load bearing” joints like knees and hips. Unsurprisingly, carrying around excess weight can result in greater discomfort simply because the affected joints are required to do more work.

Weight loss can be particularly successful as a preventative method. One notable study found that overweight individuals who lost around 5kg of weight decreased the odds of developing osteoarthritis with age by 50%.

Adequate Rest

While gentle exercise can help to reduce joint pain, inflammation may increase slightly after exercise. Furthermore, removing pressure from affected joints can prove highly beneficial.

Alongside gentle, regular exercise, therefore, getting adequate rest should also be part of your joint health regime. Slow down, sleep well, and don’t feel guilty about putting your feet up from time to time. As we age, the body takes longer to recover from physical exertion so don’t be ashamed to slow down a little bit.

Temperature Changes

Many individuals find that extreme cold (such as ice packs) or warmth (hot water bottles) can help to soothe joints, improve flexibility and reduce inflammation. Experiment with both options to see which bring you the most results, as many people find that one is far more impactful for them than the other.

Supplementation

A number of supplements have the potential to assist with ongoing joint health. Glucosamine is one of the most popular options and is widely available from health food shops or online. Reasonably priced, glucosamine has undergone a number of scientific studies in recent years, which help to add weight to its potential benefits. In one case, it was compared against ibuprofen for reducing joint discomfort, and after an eight week period was found to be more effective than more traditional painkillers.

Another popular option with some scientific backing are omega 3 fish oil supplements. According to the Arthritis Foundation omega 3 oils are known for reducing inflammation in joints. In a recent overview of omega 3’s health benefits, the scientists in question reiterated that the current evidence suggests omega 3s can result in a “reduction in joint pain” – though sadly they seem to have no impact on reducing joint damage itself.

Conclusion

While modern healthcare is helping us to live longer than ever before, there is a risk that our golden years can be plagued by joint discomfort. As we have seen, however, there are a number of easy and cost-effective lifestyle changes that can have a significant impact on joint health. In most cases, the earlier that people start making these gentle changes, the more positive the outcome will be. If you want to stay fit and healthy for as long as possible, now might be the perfect time to consider shedding any excess pounds, taking regular, gentle exercise and stretching regularly.

This submission was provided by Simply Supplements, one of the UK’s best-known dietary supplement retailers.

 

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