When you have rheumatoid arthritis (RA), make sure you celebrate your good days. Don't worry about any possible flares down the road. Instead, move ahead with the things that keep you healthy.
Get Regular Checkups
Even when you're on the upswing, it's important to have regular visits with your doctor and keep taking your medications. After all, they're working! The Arthritis Foundation recommends you see your doctor at least once a year to check on your RA.
Keep up with your lab appointments, too. You need regular blood tests to see how you're doing and spot possible side effects of treatment.
Folic acid, or folate, is a B vitamin that curbs the side effects of methotrexate. You'll find it in leafy vegetables, beans, and whole grains. You can also take it as a supplement.
Also, make sure you get enough calcium and vitamin D, especially if you take steroids (such as prednisone), which can cause bone loss.
Load up on omega-3 fatty acids, which are in fish like salmon and tuna. These good fats can help your body fight inflammation. Choose fish twice a week, or take a fish oil supplement.
Protect Yourself From the Flu and Other Infections
The drugs used to treat RA can weaken your body's defense against germs. So, get a flu shot every year. Check with your doctor to find out when you should get vaccines for these other infections:
- Pneumococcal disease
- Meningococcal disease
- Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib)
- Hepatitis B
If you're 60 or older, ask your doctor about a vaccine to prevent shingles.
Stay Active and Fit
With your doctor's OK, get 20 to 30 minutes of aerobic exercise -- the kind that gets your heart pumping -- on as many days of the week as you can. Avoid anything that puts a lot of stress on your joints, such as running. Some good activities to try are walking, water aerobics, swimming, and bicycling.
A couple of days a week, do some strength training to build up the muscles that support your joints.
Also do stretching to make your body more flexible. But be careful not to overdo it.