Keeping your joints healthy and strong can help you stay active.

As you age, the cartilage around your joints can wear or break down. This can trigger arthritis, a joint disorder that causes pain and stiffness due to inflammation of one or more joints. However, you can take steps to protect your existing cartilage and relieve joint pain – possibly delaying or easing arthritis.

Eat right. Eating a balanced diet – complete with a variety of fruits and vegetables – gives your joints the nutrients they need. Talk with your physician about which vitamins and supplements may help.

Strengthen your bones. Strong bones help protect their adjacent joints. Vitamin D and Vitamin C play an important role in keeping your bones strong, as does calcium. Many adults cut calcium-rich milk out of their diets in favor of carbonated or caffeinated beverages, but studies show that caffeine can weaken bones. Smoking has also been shown to lower bone density.

Keep your weight in check. With every step you take, each of your knees registers four pounds of pressure per pound of bodyweight. If you weigh 200 pounds, that means that each knee carries 800 pounds of pressure. Even a 10-pound weight loss can relieve 40 pounds of pressure and make a difference.

Move more. Joints crave movement to fight stiffness. Every time you stretch or bend, joint fluid nourishes neighboring cartilage. Experts recommend a combination of daily movements, including walking, stretching and strength training. Aerobic activities improve blood flow, while stronger muscles around joints can act as shock absorbers.

See a physician. Everyday sprains or strains can often be relieved with rest and ice. However, if a joint swells or causes significant pain, you should contact your primary care physician or an orthopaedic surgeon – especially if it doesn’t improve after a couple days or flares up repeatedly. A clinician can help you assess your options, from medications and physical therapy to complete joint replacement.

The experts at the USC Joint Preservation and Replacement Center offer the latest advances in restoring and replacing joints. Call (800) USC-CARE or request an appointment to get the most appropriate care for your needs.

Source: The Arthritis Foundation