Over 50? Take action now to limit your osteoarthritis risk
If you're a man over age 50, your odds of getting Osteoarthritis are going up. In fact, research shows that by age 60, most men will have some form of this degenerative joint disease.
Osteoarthritis simply explained is a deterioration of the soft cartilage material lining our joints. The cartilage breaks down, leaving rougher, uneven surfaces where the joint grinds instead of slides. At worst, the cartilage can wear away entirely, leaving direct bone-on-bone contact.
Osteoarthritis normally shows up in the following joints:
While osteoarthritis causes are subject to much discussion, two main factors seem universal:
- Joint overuse or repetitive stress
- Joint injury
In limiting the risk of osteoarthritis, we will focus primarily on joint overuse and repetitive stress.
Regarding joint injury, leading a high-impact lifestyle, where you're likely to fall hard or impact the joints with blunt force, will increase your osteoarthritis risk. But hey, you gotta live your life, so make these lifestyle decision with discretion.
Osteoarthritis Causal Factors
Most men over 50 don't understand joints very well. For our purposes, it's important to understand that the skeletal system, including where bones connect as joints, aren't really designed to bear a lot of weight.
Our skeletal role is mostly just to provide a rigid structure for muscle attachment. The following two factors can contribute greatly to joint stress:
- Obesity; carrying too much weight
- Muscle atrophy; weak muscles
For example, if you're a man about 50 and six feet tall, your body weight should be in the neighborhood of 175 pounds, give or take a few. For this same person who might weigh, say 250 pounds, that's an extra 75 pounds of weight your body must support.
On top of that, throw in a sedentary lifestyle where muscles have shrunk to a limited capacity in supporting the joints. After all, a joint is really only as strong as the muscles and tendons that hold it together.
The combined effect is "settling into the joints", placing tremendous loads on the knees, hips, and spine. Now think of joint cartilage as the "contact points" of this load.
After years of abuse the joint cartilage just starts to fall apart.
Limiting osteoarthritis risk in men over 50 then is pretty self-evident, but it's up to you as the individual to take the right actions now, so here are the keys:
- Lose weight. Universally, this is the single best thing any man over 50 can do to improve overall health. However, specific to osteoarthritis, maintaining proper weight is an imperative.
- Strengthen your muscle base. Resistance training (weight lifting) is the best way to achieve muscle strength gains. If you don't have resistance training experience, find a reputable personal trainer to help start you. Any program must include total body strengthening with heavy emphasis on increasing core strength.
Osteoarthritis is not completely preventable in men over 50, however understanding the causes and taking specific action now will limit anyone's risk in a favorable way.
Remember, it's your body, the only one you'll ever have. It's up to you to take the steps required to maintain a healthy body and a healthy, happy life.