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June 25, 2008 > Lunchtime Forum Gives Keys to Managing Osteoarthritis

Lunchtime Forum Gives Keys to Managing Osteoarthritis

Are your lower back, hips, knees or feet stiff and painful when you get out of bed in the morning? Do your joints hurt, making it uncomfortable or difficult to walk, climb stairs or lift things? What about your neck and fingers? Do pain and stiffness make it hard to hold a pencil or do needlework? If so, you may be one of nearly 27 million Americans who have osteoarthritis.
Although osteoarthritis can strike at any age, it's more common after age 45. More women than man suffer from this degenerative joint disease, especially after age 50. We are aware of some factors that contribute to osteoarthritis, but the cause it not completely known and there is no cure.
If you struggle with some of the above symptoms, especially if they interfere with your everyday activities at home, work or play, you should see your doctor.
"It is important that you get your osteoarthritis diagnosed and treated as early as possible," advises the Arthritis Foundation. "Early diagnosis and treatment is the first step in successful management of osteoarthritis. Your doctor may start you on a drug therapy regime, but ultimately you are the key factor in living successfully with osteoarthritis."
Because osteoarthritis is so common and many of the people affected are women, and because it's so important to learn to help manage the disease in partnership with your doctor, the Washington Hospital Women's Center is sponsoring a free lunchtime forum on this critical topic. Presented by registered dietitian Kim Alvari, manager of Clinical Nutrition at Washington Hospital, the Lunch and Learn seminar is on Thursday, July 10 from 12 noon to 1 p.m. in the Women's Center Conference Room at Washington West, 2500 Mowry Avenue in Fremont.
"Osteoarthritis is a chronic disease that can be very painful, and people are often looking for quick, easy ways to get relief," says Alvari. "Right now, there are a lot of products and diets on the market claiming to relieve arthritis symptoms, but not all are proven or safe. During the forum, we'll talk about many of these - what works and what doesn't, what's safe and what's not."
When it comes to diet, the goal in managing osteoarthritis is to eat things that will help reduce inflammation in the joints, explains Alvari. For example foods with Omega-3 fatty acids, such as cold water fish like salmon, are effective inflammation fighters. Foods rich in vitamin C are also good because they help fight free radicals that can harm joint cartilage. At the forum, you'll learn more about what foods help avoid inflammation, making osteoarthritis more manageable.
"Lifestyle choices can also make a difference in living successfully with osteoarthritis, and one of the most important aspects of this is maintaining a healthy weight," adds Alvari.
Even losing a relatively small amount of weight can make a big difference in helping to relieve symptoms. For example, for every 10 lbs. someone is over their normal weight, the force on their knees is increased by between 30 lbs. and 60 lbs. each time they take a step. By losing just 15 lbs., you can reduce the force on your knees by 50 percent and this, in turn, will help avoid damage to the knee joints and relieve pain.
Physical activity is also an important factor in managing osteoarthritis.
"Research has shown that physical activity decreases pain, improves function and delays disability," according to the Centers for Disease Control. "Make sure you get at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity at three days a week. You can get activity in 10-minute intervals."
In recent years, the public has become increasingly interested in the role of herbs and supplements in helping to manage osteoarthritis.
"Because many supplements are said to be natural, people tend to think they are safe. However, they are not studied and monitored the way foods and drugs are regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration," says Alvari. "At the seminar, we'll talk about how you can evaluate the safety of certain products and also buy the best quality."
To help ensure the safety of medication, there are three layers of protection between the manufacturer and the individual: the FDA, your physician and the pharmacist. None of these layers of protection currently exists for herbs and supplements.
"We'll look at different potential remedies during the seminar," relates Alvari. "Some are 'tried and true' while others may not be beneficial."

To learn more about osteoarthritis, go to cdc.gov or arthritis.org. For information about Washington Women's Center, go to whhs.com or call (510) 608-1301. To reserve your space at the upcoming seminar on osteoporosis, call (800) 963-7070.

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