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Arthritis Health Center

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Arthritis Rising: Are You at Risk?

Extra Pounds, Idle Lifestyles May Make Arthritis More Likely
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Oct. 12, 2006 -- Arthritis is on the rise in the U.S., with no signs of a slowdown. But you might be able to buck that trend, says the CDC.

First, the numbers. Picture a graph with a line headed upward, and you've got the basic idea.

More than 46 million U.S. adults -- over 21% -- say they've been told by a doctor that they have arthritis, gout, lupus, or fibromyalgia.

About 8% of U.S. adults -- more than 17 million people -- say arthritis or joint symptoms hamper their activities.

That's according to CDC statistics from national health surveys done from 2003 to 2005.

Those figures were lower in 2002.

Back then, nearly 43 million adults said they had doctor-diagnosed arthritis, gout, lupus, or fibromyalgia; slightly less than 8% said arthritis or joint problems limited their activities.

By 2030, arthritis will affect 67 million U.S. adults, the CDC predicts.

Those statistics appear in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Who's Affected

Arthritis is most common in the following groups:

  • Women
  • Older adults
  • Whites (compared with blacks and Hispanics)
  • People who are overweight or obese
  • People with sedentary lifestyles

After adjusting for age, people with low education levels and people who are obese or physically inactive were the most likely to say arthritis and joint problems limited their activities.

Remember, the CDC's findings are based on self-reports of doctor-diagnosed arthritis.

The researchers didn't check participants' medical records. They also don't know how many people have undiagnosed arthritis.

What You Can Do

Shedding extra pounds and becoming more active may give you an edge against arthritis.

For instance, 31% of obese adults and 21% of overweight (but not obese) adults said they'd been diagnosed with arthritis, compared with 16% of leaner adults.

A quarter of those who were physically inactive said they had doctor-diagnosed arthritis, compared with nearly 20% of physically active adults.

The surveys didn't directly test weight loss or physical activity as ways to prevent arthritis. But other studies have.

Extra weight puts more stress on joints. And joints that get little use may feel more stiff and painful than if they get used.

Of course, you shouldn't pound your joints with overblown exercise, and you shouldn't sacrifice nutritionto lose weight. So check with your doctor before starting a new diet or exercise program.

If you already have arthritis, ask your doctor what you can do to manage your condition.

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