When you have rheumatoid arthritis, it's important to celebrate your good days as the gifts they are. Try not to look over your shoulder in anticipation of an RA flare. Instead, go forward with the things you know will help you stay healthy.
Are you continuing to get regular checkups?
Even when you’re on the upswing, it’s important to have regular check-ins with your doctor and continue with your RA medications. After all, they're working! The Arthritis Foundation recommends you see your doctor at least once a year to monitor your RA. Be sure to keep your lab appointments, too. Everyone with RA needs regular blood tests to monitor the disease and possible side effects of treatment.
Are you eating right for RA?
Folic acid, or folate, is a B vitamin that helps lessen the side effects of methotrexate. It’s available in foods like leafy vegetables, beans, and whole grains. You can also take it as a supplement.
Also, make sure you are getting enough calcium and vitamin D, especially if you take corticosteroids (like prednisone), which can cause bone loss.
And don't forget about omega-3 fatty acids, found in oily fish like salmon and tuna. Omega-3s can help your body fight inflammation. Try to eat fish twice a week, or take a fish oil supplement.
Do you protect yourself from flu and other infections?
The drugs used to treat RA can weaken your body’s defenses and increase your risk of infections. Make sure you are vaccinated. Get a flu shot every year. Check with your doctor to find out when you should get vaccines for these other infections:
- Haemophilus influenza type b (Hib)
- Hepatitis B
Are you staying active and fit?
With your doctor’s OK, get 20 to 30 minutes of low-impact aerobic exercise on as many days of the week as you can. Walking, water aerobics, swimming, and bicycling are good joint-friendly exercises. Avoid anything that puts a lot of stress on your joints, such as running. A couple days a week, do some strength training to strengthen the muscles that support your joints. Also a couple of days a week, do stretching to improve flexibility. Take it in moderation though. Don’t overdo it.
Be honest, do you need to lose some weight?
While you're staying fit, keep an eye on your weight. Extra weight puts added stress on your joints. Being overweight makes joints stiffer and more painful -- and can worsen RA flares. So eat a nutritious, lower-calorie diet. Here are some simple ways to do it.
- Make half your plate fruits and vegetables.
- Make at least half of your grains whole grains.
- Use low-fat or fat-free dairy products.
- Eat healthy proteins like seafood, lean meat and poultry, eggs, beans and nuts.