Actress Helen Hayes once said, “If you rest, you rust.” That especially becomes true when it comes to your joints. If joint pain keeps you from being active and doing the things you want to do, not moving can end up increasing your pain until it becomes hard to do anything. This blog post will look at how to maintain healthy joints so you can keep living the life you want to live.
How to Keep Your Joints Healthy.
As you age, maintaining healthy joints can help you stay mobile. Although you may not be able to completely prevent injury or avoid health conditions such as arthritis, here are some things you can do to help improve your joint health.
Maintain a healthy weight: Being overweight adds to the strain on your weight-bearing joints — knees, ankles, hips and back. In fact, according to the Arthritis Foundation, every pound of excess weight adds four pounds of extra pressure on your weight-bearing joints. By maintaining a healthy weight, you can limit the amount of stress on your joints and reduce your risk of joint damage.
Get moving: Low-impact exercise — like walking, swimming, cycling, golf, strength training, and stretching — can help your joints stay mobile and may even help with weight loss. When doing any type of exercise, you should be sure to protect your joints by taking it slowly at first.
Have range: To preserve your current range of motion or even improve it, you should routinely put each joint through its full range of motion. By extending, bending and rotating each of your joints, you’ll help improve flexibility and relieve stiffness and pain. Your doctor or physical therapist can recommend exercises.
Stay strong: Strength training can help you build muscles that keep your joints safe and mobile.Your routine should include core-strengthening exercises — like Pilates and yoga — for your abdominal, back and chest muscles. A strong core can help improve balance to prevent falls.
Strong bones: Calcium and vitamin D can help you maintain strong bones. Dairy products are the best sources of calcium, but other options include green, leafy vegetables like broccoli and kale.
Stand up straight: Proper standing and sitting posture reduces joint stress and can limit your risk of injury to the surrounding muscles.
S-t-r-e-t-c-h: To loosen up your joints, ligaments and tendons, try to stretch at least three times a week after a light warmup like walking for 10 minutes.
Be chill: Ice is a natural pain reliever. If you have a sore joint, apply a cold pack or ice wrapped in a towel for up to 20 minutes at a time. It can help numb the ache and ease the swelling.
Treat sprains: If you twist your knee or sprain your wrist or ankle, see your doctor right away for treatment. They can help you take steps to avoid more damage.
Stop smoking: Lighting up can increase your risk of osteoporosis, bone fractures, and injuries involving bursitis or tendonitis. Smokers also have a higher risk of low back pain and rheumatoid arthritis.
Healthy Joints Start with These Foods.
Your everyday routine can have a big impact on the health and longevity of your joints, including what you eat. For example, choosing foods that are good for building bone density, strengthening connective tissue, and reducing inflammation can help you prevent injuries and preserve your joints for a long, active life.
Here are some delicious options to consider:
Cold water fish: Tuna, salmon, trout, halibut and sardines are a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, which can reduce inflammatory proteins in the body; improve brain function; and lower the risk of heart disease, diabetes and other illnesses.
Nuts and seeds: Omega-3s can be found in a variety of nuts and seeds — like walnuts, almonds, flax seeds, chia seeds and pine nuts — and can help reduce inflammation in the joints and connective tissue.
Vegetables: Mustard greens, arugula, kale, purple cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts block an enzyme that causes swelling in the joints.
Blueberries: These sweet berries are high in anthocyanins — a powerful flavonoid — that helps “turn off” inflammatory responses in the body.
Apples: This fiber-rich and anti-inflammatory fruit also has added benefits for gut health.
Tomatoes: They contain the powerful antioxidant lycopene. And cooked tomatoes are more lycopene-rich than uncooked ones.
Olive oil: This unsaturated “healthy” fat is also a good source of omega-3.
Lentils and beans: Black beans, lentils, chickpeas, pinto beans and soybeans are all great sources of anthocyanins — a flavonoid that reduces inflammation.
Garlic and root vegetables: Garlic, onions, ginger and turmeric have anti-inflammatory properties and can be useful in treating symptoms of arthritis and other joint pain.
Whole grains: The Arthritis Foundation has a detailed list of grains that are recommended for arthritis sufferers — including whole wheat, whole oats, barley and rye.
Dark chocolate: Cocoa, the main ingredient in chocolate, contains antioxidants that can counteract insulin resistance and inflammation. The higher the percentage of cocoa in the chocolate, the higher its anti-inflammatory effect, so choose chocolate that is at least 70% cocoa.
While it’s possible to reach your health and wellness goals on your own, being in a community of active friends and neighbors can help keep you motivated. If you’re looking for a community of like-minded seniors, our Find a Community tool is a great place to start and can provide a list of local options for you to consider.