According to the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, 25 percent of all Americans deal with some form of arthritis. The most common symptoms associated with the degenerative joint condition include swelling, joint pain and stiffness. Approximately half of those diagnosed with arthritis have difficulty performing everyday activities such as bending and walking. Another 50 percent report a dual diagnosis of heart disease.
Arthritis and the Link to Heart Disease
With February being Heart Health Month, now is an excellent time to learn more about heart disease prevention. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both women and men in the United States. Good heart health starts by knowing the most common symptoms of a heart attack. The Centers for Disease Control states that only one-quarter of Americans can name the following symptoms:
- Cold sweats
- Pain ranging from mild discomfort to squeezing and crushing in the chest
- Pain in the upper body
- Discomfort in the arms, jaw, neck, back, or upper abdominal area
Some risk factors for heart disease, such as age, gender, and ethnicity, are outside of your control. We discuss the controllable risk factors for heart disease below.
Why Arthritis Increases Heart Disease Risk and What You Can Do About It
The American Heart Association states that six known risk factors for heart disease are within a person’s control. The first is smoking. This habit increases your blood pressure, accelerates plaque production in the arteries and lowers your good cholesterol. Smoking also increases the likelihood of developing rheumatoid arthritis.
Diet and Exercise
It can be difficult to exercise when you deal with joint pain, swelling and stiffness. If so, talk to your doctor about a modified plan that you can start slowly. Exercise is essential for keeping excess weight off to reduce the effects of both arthritis and heart disease.
You don’t necessarily need to go on a diet if you’re overweight or obese. Start by reducing your portion sizes, drinking plenty of water, eating slowly, and getting enough sleep each night. You might be surprised at what a difference this can make.
High Cholesterol, High Blood Pressure and Diabetes
The impact of having even one of these conditions can make it more challenging to avoid arthritis and heart disease. If you do have a diagnosis, it is essential to take medication prescribed by your doctor and do everything you can to manage it. For example, count your carbohydrates each day if you have diabetes, avoid eating high-fat foods if you have high cholesterol and strive for a balanced diet with limited amounts of trans-fat and saturated fat if you have high blood pressure.
Get Help from Your Arthritis Doctor
Your doctor at Arthritis Center of Lexington is your partner in good health. If you have concerns about managing heart disease or another condition when you have arthritis, don’t hesitate to contact us to schedule an appointment.