When it comes to chronic health conditions for which there is no cure, nothing is more prevalent than arthritis. Today, six million Canadians – one in five – live with the devastating impacts of this condition and 60 per cent of this statistic are women. As part of September being Arthritis Awareness month, Alberta Blue Cross® is highlighting the ways in which people with arthritis can help manage their symptoms. Living with a chronic condition, like arthritis, can present its own unique set of challenges. So, becoming educated on the topic will be helpful not just to those living with this disease, but those who might develop it down the road or know someone currently living with arthritis.
- Take care of your mental health
Receiving a new diagnosis can be difficult to come to terms with. Plus, the pain or severity of your arthritis might take a toll on your mental wellness. It’s easy to fall into a pattern of negative thinking so be sure that you are caring for your mental health as well as your physical health. You can do this by attending therapy sessions, confiding in your loved ones, practicing regular self-care and mindfulness.
- Stay active
You don’t have to run a marathon every weekend to keep your joints moving and mobile, but regular and doable physical activity should be a goal of yours. It helps decrease joint pain, increase mobility and even helps with improving sleep. Some low-impact exercises that you can participate in are walking, yoga, water exercise classes, tai chi or cycling.
Exercise can also help you combat any fatigue you might be feeling because of your arthritis. Make sure you talk to your health care provider about the activities you are interested in participating in.
- Stay hydrated and eat well
Did you know that hydration and food play a large part in keeping your joints lubricated and healthy? For some people living with arthritis, certain foods and caffeinated drinks can cause their condition to flare up. Discuss with your doctor or registered dietician if there are any foods you should avoid or begin including in your diet to help manage your symptoms.
- Know your limits
When living with arthritis, it’s important to know and understand your body’s abilities and boundaries. Don’t try to push yourself past your limit. Listen to what your body is telling you and do your best to honour it. Don’t be afraid to include a healthy amount of rest in your life.
- Protect your joints
As mentioned earlier in this blog, choosing to participate in low-impact activities can help reduce the risk of injury. However, if you are being physically active at work or sports, it is recommended that you use a brace to give extra support to the area of your body that needs it most. For example, wrist, back and knee braces are fantastic ways of reducing impact on your joints and mitigating the negative effects of arthritis.
- Try to be organized
Have all your medications in an accessible spot, plan your day around your energy level and schedule in tasks to accomplish to help reduce extra physical exertion. If keeping your pain and energy at a consistent level is difficult for you, try planning out your days as much as possible. However, if you find that your body can’t accomplish all the tasks you had scheduled in a day, that’s okay too. Remember that listening to your body and respecting its limits is the most important thing.
- Connect with others
Connecting with other people living with arthritis can be beneficial for sharing tips and management techniques, but it can also be great to confide in one another about living with the condition. Doing this helps you realize that while you might be struggling to manage your arthritis symptoms, you aren’t alone and it is completely normal to experience and feel all emotions related to your condition. Finding validation from others who have walked the same or similar path can feel comforting and encouraging.
- Practice self-care
Practicing self-care helps us be kind to ourselves and take some dedicated time to heal our bodies and minds. This is especially useful for those living with arthritis when they experience a flare-up of their condition. Self-care doesn’t have to only mean a trip to a fancy spa or a bubble bath. It can simply be anything that feels comforting, joyful, soothing and relaxing.
While people of all ages are affected by arthritis, the likelihood increases with age as nearly half of seniors over 65 live with it. The more you can learn about it, the greater chance you have at mitigating any severe effects caused by the disease. There are also more than 100 different types of arthritis, so early prevention is the name of the game when it comes to this condition.
Symptoms for arthritis can present in mild or severe ways, so it is beneficial knowing how to take early action and preventative measures when you find out you have it or are at risk of developing it. One way that Alberta Blue Cross plan members can care for their future health is by taking the Health Risk Assessment (HRA) on Balance®, our online wellness program. The HRA can show you where there are health risk factors in your life, so it is a helpful tool to use if you or your loved ones are at risk for arthritis. But remember, there are things people living with arthritis can do to help reduce the impact. Speak to your doctor and see if you can incorporate these suggestions to help improve your quality of life.