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Rheumatoid Arthritis in Women

How to manage your work and home life when you have rheumatoid arthritis.

Benefits of Exercise for Women With Rheumatoid Arthritis continued...

"Exercise is always good because these women may be on steroids to treat their RA and exercise can help prevent steroid-induced bone loss," says Bili. Other ways to help head off osteoporosis include taking calcium supplements, which help keep bones strong, and getting regular bone density tests.

Women with RA are also at increased risk for heart disease, so anything that reduces their heart risks is also recommended, experts stress.

"The major cause of death in RA is cardiovascular disease, so women with RA need to take better care of themselves as far as controlling their weight, eating a healthful diet, and making sure that their cholesterol and blood pressure levels are where they should be," Bili says. "Not smoking is particularly important."

Smoking is a major risk factor for heart disease and also increases risk of RA. Some research suggests that quitting smoking can also reduce joint pain and swelling.

Women and RA: Diet Matters

While there is no anti-RA diet, Rosian suggests filling up on colorful fruits and vegetables. "Avoid some of the pro-inflammatory foods like red meat if they are a trigger for your RA symptoms," she says. She also recommends that women with RA take 1,000 milligrams of omega-3 fish oil twice a day to help reduce inflammation.

"Eat a well-balanced diet and maintain a healthy weight to help minimize joint pain," she says.

Depression and anxiety may also go hand-in-hand with chronic illness like RA, Rosian says. Medication as well as stress-relieving therapies such as yoga, meditation, tai chi, guided imagery, or acupuncture can help women with RA better manage their moods and fatigue, she says.

Rheumatoid Arthritis in Women: Build a Strong Support Network

Support from loved ones and friends can also help alleviate depression and anxiety among women with RA.

"Howard has been my rock," Schear says. "I had no symptoms when we got married and he has been by my side the whole time," she says.

Kelly Rouba, a 29-year-old Hamilton, N.J., special needs advocate and freelance writer who was diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis when she was 2 years old, is not feeling so lucky when it comes to love.

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