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Arthritis Health Center

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Arthritis Patients More Likely to Be Obese

Obesity 54% Higher in Those With Arthritis Than Those Without, Researchers Say

Arthritis and Obesity: Perspective

The finding that arthritis and obesity are linked is no surprise, says Patience White, MD, vice president of public health at the Arthritis Foundation. She reviewed the study findings for WebMD but was not involved in the research.

However, the magnitude of the effect of arthritis on obesity is surprising to her, she says.

"It's good to bring attention to this link," White says. By and large, she says, people are not aware of it.

Explaining the Link Between Obesity and Arthritis

Does arthritis lead to obesity, or does obesity lead to the arthritis?

"It could go both ways," Hootman says. "People have arthritis, their joints hurt, they don't exercise," she says. "We also know once someone has arthritis, obesity will make it worse."

From other research, Hootman says, it is known that obesity is one of the risk factors for osteoarthritis.

White agrees the link could go both ways. Those with arthritis may give up on trying to be active -- a mistake, she says -- and put on weight. The extra weight can worsen the arthritis by putting extra stress on the joints.

White tells those with arthritis who are overweight to focus on small amounts of weight loss. "For every pound you gain or lose it is like 4 pounds of pressure on your knee," she says. Losing just a few pounds can reduce the pressure and perhaps the joint pain, she says. Once the pain is reduced, it can be easier to resume regular physical activity.

"Swimming is a great option because that can help you be very active and you are not pounding on the lower extremities," she says. Walking and tai chi are also ideal.

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