Around Australia, people are planning their weekends. Perhaps you’ll head out for a surf, stroll through the city on a shopping trip, visit with family, take the dog for a walk or mow the lawn. But as you’re heading out to enjoy a sunny spring weekend, spare a thought for the 3.85 million Australians suffering from arthritis. For them, just walking to the letterbox may be difficult.
Sunday 12 October is World Arthritis Day, promoting the theme healthy living to arthritis suffers. Physical activity may be challenging, difficult or painful for arthritis suffers, however physical activity and healthy lifestyle choices are important to managing the condition and its effects. The 2013-2014 WAD message ‘Healthy Ageing: growing up and growing older with a rheumatic or musculoskeletal disease’ encourages and educates on small lifestyle choices that can have a positive impact in the lives of arthritis suffers.
What is Arthritis?
Arthritis is a disease involving joint inflammation. There are over 120 forms of arthritis, including osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and psoriatic arthritis. Some types of arthritis are related to auto-immune disorders, joint deterioration, infection and ageing.
There is no cure for arthritis, however symptoms are usually manageable although they may still impact on quality of life. Treatment can be expensive; it’s estimated that it costs the Australian economy $23.9 billion dollars each year in healthcare costs and lost production and earnings.
Arthritis not only impacts the economy but the hip pockets of sufferers as well; in an Access Economics survey the average cost (per sufferer) was found to be $6200 each year, with 61% of this cost paid for out of the patient’s pocket.
Although staying fit and keeping active can be a challenge for many arthritis sufferers, World Arthritis Day organisers want to encourage arthritis patients to make small changes that may make big differences to their quality of life.
Start with a healthy diet; aim for a balance between the food groups. Avoid saturated fats and Omega-6 fats (found in soya, sunflower and corn products). Increase your intake of Omega-3 through fish, nuts and flaxseed. Avoid grapefruit and grapefruit juice as it may interact with some arthritis medications.
Get out and move – gently of course. Although movement may be difficult, it’s important to keep moving throughout the day. Do not sit or lie down for extended periods of time. Don’t try to do everything at once, if you haven’t exercised in a while, start slowly with a short walk down the street. Physical activity includes things like hanging out the washing, cleaning your house and making a cup of tea – every little bit of movement counts.
Make smart lifestyle choices. Keep an eye on the scales; being overweight may increase your risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis and the extra weight also puts more strain on your joints. Smoking may also increase your risk.
Look after your mental wellbeing. Managing your symptoms may sometimes be easier than managing your emotions! Talk through your frustrations and challenges with loved ones or peers or keep an emotions journal. Remaining optimistic is key to maintaining your mental well-being.
The Final Word
Arthritis affects 1 in 5 Australians and it may severely affect their mobility and quality of life. Encourage and support them through their arthritis journey by sharing the WAD message on healthy living with your friends and loved ones this weekend.