When you have rheumatoid arthritis (RA), make sure you celebrate your good days. Don't worry about possible flares down the road. Move ahead with the things that keep you healthy.
Get Regular Checkups
Even when you're on the upswing, it's important for you to have regular doctor visits and take your meds the way you have been. After all, they're working. You should 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 your treatment.
Folic acid, or folate, is a B vitamin that curbs the side effects of methotrexate. You'll find it in:
- Leafy vegetables
- Whole grains
You can also take it as a supplement.
Make sure you get enough calcium and vitamin D, too. This is especially true if you take steroids (like prednisone). They can cause bone loss.
Load up on omega-3 fatty acids, which are in things 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:
- Pneumococcal disease
- Meningococcal disease
- Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib)
- Hepatitis B
If you're 60 or older, ask your doctor about vaccines to prevent shingles and COVID-19.
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, like running. Some good activities to try are:
- Water aerobics
Do some strength training a couple of times each week to build up the muscles that support your joints.
Stretch to make your body more flexible, too. However, be careful not to overdo it.
Do You Need to Lose Some Weight?
Keep an eye on your scale. Extra pounds put stress on your joints. If you're overweight, your joints may get stiffer and more painful, and your flares can be worse.
Eat a healthy, lower-calorie diet. Here’s how:
- Fill half your plate with fruits and veggies.
- When you choose grains, pick whole grains at least half the time. For example, go for brown rice instead of white.
- Pick low-fat or fat-free versions when you have dairy.
- Eat healthy proteins like seafood, lean meat and poultry, eggs, beans, and nuts.
Arthritis Foundation: "Quality Measurements for Rheumatoid Arthritis."
Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ): "Rheumatoid Arthritis Medicines: A Guide for Adults."
Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health: "Folic Acid Fact Sheet."
United States Department of Agriculture: "Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2012."