Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease characterized by systemic inflammatory processes that affect the joints. The evidence indicates that this is one of the most common rheumatic diseases worldwide. It causes a deterioration in the quality of life and the cost of its treatment is high. The question then arises: can we prevent rheumatoid arthritis?
This disease has no cure and has a high degree of genetic predisposition. So you are more likely to develop it if you have a family history. We know that it is more common in women and that the mother’s habits during pregnancy can promote her development in the baby.
Can Rheumatoid Arthritis be Prevented?
There is no consensus among researchers on the causes of rheumatoid arthritis. It is known to be an autoimmune disease, so it occurs when the immune system attacks itself. Being a woman and adopting harmful habits during pregnancy increases predisposition, as does family history.
However, we cannot say that rheumatoid arthritis can be prevented. Not completely, at least. This is because there are some variables that cannot be managed.
However, scientists have identified several risk factors associated with the disorder. Some of them are editable. Therefore, you can lower your chances of developing the disease by avoiding modifiable risk factors.
7 Tips to Prevent Rheumatoid Arthritis
Now let’s see what habits you can incorporate into your daily life to reduce your chances of developing the disease. Generally speaking, leading a healthy life is a positive thing to avoid any type of disease. In the specific case of this autoimmune disease, we recommend that you follow the following tips.
1. Stop smoking
The research associate tobacco smoke with an increased risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis. Although the association is strongest in active smokers, passive smokers are also at risk. Oxidative stress, autoantibody formation, internal inflammatory processes and epigenetic changes influence the development of the disease.
Therefore, if you want to prevent rheumatoid arthritis, you must quit smoking. Try to reduce the number of cigarettes you smoke per day to gradually get rid of the habit. Diagnosed patients should also follow this advice, as reducing tobacco consumption positively affects symptoms of the disease.
2. Reduce alcohol consumption
The researchers also found a link between excessive alcohol consumption and rheumatoid arthritis. However, other experts suggest that low and even moderate consumption has a positive effect. Despite this ambivalence in the results, the general recommendation is to reduce alcohol consumption.
It should be noted that there is a debate on what is considered low, moderate and excessive alcohol consumption. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), binge drinking is 8 or more drinks for women in a week , and 15 or more drinks for men. The less you drink, the better. Remember that this will bring other health benefits.
3. Reduce episodes of stress
Stress has been listed as a risk factor for rheumatoid arthritis. The mechanism by which stress affects this disease and other autoimmune diseases, like psoriasis for example, has not been found, but is thought to affect it by weakening the immune system.
To prevent rheumatoid arthritis, therefore, you should try to minimize daily stressful episodes. You can do breathing exercises, yoga, meditate or practice mindfulness for this. Anything that reduces these episodes will be welcome.
4. Maintain a healthy weight
Some studies suggest that overweight and obesity maintain a connection with this autoimmune disease. Indeed, many patients with these conditions are diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, especially when there are other risk factors.
5. Get some physical exercise
The benefits of exercise are indirect, but significant in the long run. By exercising, you control your weight, strengthen your bones and joints, prevent dozens of complications and diseases, keep your immune system healthy, reduce stress levels, and more.
All this has a positive effect on the prevention of rheumatoid arthritis. Ideally, you should opt for aerobic exercise, although any type of physical activity is welcome. You can follow the recommendations of the World Health Organization (WHO), and thus do 150 minutes of intense exercise or 300 minutes of moderate exercise per week.
6. Avoid bone loss
To some extent, there is nothing you can do to prevent bone loss, as it is a natural occurrence that begins after the age of thirty. However, there are a lot of things you can do to reduce its acceleration. Here are a few:
- Maintain a consistent exercise program throughout the week.
- Make sure to include calcium and vitamin D in your diet.
- Take vitamin supplements for bone health if your trusted doctor recommends it.
- Avoid prolonged use of glucocorticoids, unless expressly directed by a doctor.
- Avoid sedentary lifestyle.
By constantly applying these practical tips, you reduce the natural deterioration of bone material. Keep in mind that this deterioration begins around age 30-35, and accelerates after age 50.
7. Control infections and allergies
Certain infectious or allergic processes can lead to a disruption of the immune system. In people who are at risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis, this can be a manifestation of the disease. This is why, as a general rule, you should keep control over any infections or allergies that have been diagnosed to you.
You don’t have to make big sacrifices to prevent rheumatoid arthritis. Leading a healthy lifestyle is enough to minimize the risks. In addition, being aware of the symptoms is of great importance in order to act early and initiate treatment in a timely manner.