In 2006, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that 21.6% of the US adult population reported arthritis, with significantly higher prevalence in women than in men (24.4% vs. 18.1%). Arthritis prevalence increased with age and was higher among women than men in every age group. With the aging of the US population, the prevalence of doctor-diagnosed arthritis is expected to increase in the coming decades. By 2030, it is estimated that 67 million adults age 18 and older will have arthritis, compared with the current 46 million. Also, by 2030 an estimated 25 million adults will report arthritis-attributable activity limitations.
Functional limitations in routine activities are common among adults with arthrtis: 40% report it is “very difficult” or they “cannot do” at least 1 of 9 important daily functions which include their ability to stoop, bend, grasp, kneel or walk 1/4 mile. Obesity is a known risk factor for the progression of knee osteoarthritis and possibly of other joints. Reducing body weight may result in significant improvement in the health-related quality of life of people with arthritis.
Although physical activity and exercise have been shown to benefit people with arthritis by improving pain control, function, and mental health, many people with arthritis report no leisure time physical activity. Low levels of physical activity place individuals with arthritis at further risk of inactivity-associated conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, and functional limitations.
Some interesting research is currently taking place at Northwestern U. that is looking at knee alignment and its role in progression of knee osteoarthritis that could lead to earlier and novel interventions that could decrease or prevent arthritic disability in the future. Many Illinois women who are part of the Illinois Women’s Health Registry are participating in those studies.
In the meantime, women (and men) who have arthritis could benefit from keeping their weight down and keeping physically active!!! As we age, it is even more important that we develop a lifestyle that includes healthy eating and exercise.