Healthy Resolutions for People With Arthritis

5 Tips for Living Well With Arthritis

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At the beginning of a new year, many people hold to the tradition of making one or more resolutions. But, not everyone chooses to make a resolution. Some people avoid it because they believe that sticking with a resolution is nearly impossible, or they feel unwanted pressure from scheduling life improvements (e.g., losing 20 lbs. in 3 months). What if we didn't call them New Year's resolutions? What if we just considered 5 paths which you should evaluate and re-evaluate periodically -- not only at the beginning of the year.

Diet

It's important for everyone to eat a healthy, well-balanced diet. That's no secret. But, some people with arthritis make the mistake of thinking that a change to their diet can cure arthritis. There is no evidence of a dietary cure for arthritis. However, there is evidence that certain foods in your diet may have an anti-inflammatory effect, potentially improving arthritis symptoms. There is also potential benefit in trying food elimination to determine if you have specific food sensitivities.

There are fringe benefits to paying attention to your diet. Eating healthy options can reduce your risk of developing certain comorbid conditions (e.g., heart disease, diabetes). It can also help you maintain your ideal weight

Because diet is not directly connected to an arthritis cure, don't disregard its importance entirely. Decide what you are willing to do to eat more healthy and what changes you are willing to make to your current eating habits.

Make those improvements at your own pace.  

Exercise

The beneficial impact of exercise on arthritis is underestimated by many people with the disease. Exercise helps build and maintain muscle strength. Improved muscle strength is essential for mobility, balance, functional capacity and more.

Our capacity for physical activity is tied to maintaining bone, muscle, and joint health.

Many people with arthritis are discouraged about exercise, believing that they are unable to do enough to reap any reward. Any regular physical activity helps to maintain your current level of strength while allowing you to gradually build on it.  No effort is ever lost in this regard. Ask your doctor about exercise. Request an evaluation with a physical therapist. Together, as a team, discuss realistic goals.   

Taking Time for Yourself

Chronic arthritis is a wearying disease. Life's focus becomes doctor's appointments, prescription medications, fatigue, pain, functional limitations, and a shift away from what most people consider normal. The severity of an individual's condition determines the impact. The impact, however strong, must be tempered by periodically stepping away from the medical aspect and focusing on something pleasurable.

Each individual can decide how often that needs to be done. But, clearly, it needs to be done. Each person can decide how to do it --- meditation, reading, going out to lunch with friends, a new hairstyle -- whatever creates a lovely diversion. Taking some amount of time for yourself will re-energize, and consequently, enhance your ability to cope.     

Giving of Yourself

While diet and exercise are important for overall good health, and taking time for yourself is important for your emotional health, it can't solely be about you 24/7. Despite the difficulties that arthritis brings to daily life, we must be mindful that we are part of something much bigger than ourselves. We are part of a family, part of friendships, and part of the world. We must contribute to each of those in meaningful ways. Whatever way you choose to help, contribute, or join, giving of yourself will improve your self-esteem and feelings of self-worth. Again, it is a mistake to think you can't do enough to matter. The smallest gestures can have the greatest impact. Carve out time to focus on others. You can even help someone else with arthritis!

Eliminate Negativity

You should try to eliminate stress, negativity, and toxic relationships from your life. Stress, negativity, and toxic relationships drag you down and add to the burden of living with arthritis. You need to subtract from the burden rather than add to it. Identify the causes of your stress or the source of negativity. Shed as much as possible. You will physically feel that you have lightened your load.

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