Osteoarthritis affects 33 million people in the United States – and 62 percent of them are women. Why is that?
There are several reasons why women are more susceptible to arthritis. Body shape is one factor. Women tend to develop arthritis more commonly in their knees. This is because women’s hips are wider than their knees. Wider hips result in the thigh bone approaching the knee at an angle, compared to a man with narrow hips whose knee is aligned perfectly straight. Depending on the width of a woman’s hips, this increased angle can range from mild to severe. Either way, this angle creates an increased risk of degeneration as well as injury. Foot problems (such as flat feet) can also increase the stress at the knee joint.
Furthermore, a woman’s body is designed to give birth. Women’s ligaments (the material that holds joints together) stretch more than men’s ligaments. This allows women’s bodies to adapt and prepare for the growing child during pregnancy. However, because their ligaments are more elastic, women’s joints move around a bit more – making them less stable and more prone to degeneration and injury.
Hormones also play a role in a woman’s risk of developing arthritis. Estrogen has been shown to protect joint cartilage from the inflammation that can lead to arthritis. After menopause, estrogen levels go down and the risk of developing arthritis increases. It is interesting to note that before age 55, a higher number of men have osteoarthritis, but after age 55, the number of women with arthritis greatly increases.
Weight is a contributing factor towards the development of osteoarthritis as well. For every pound gained, there are 6 pounds of increased pressure on the hips and 4 pounds of increased stress on the knees.
Some of the risk factors that make women more susceptible to arthritis cannot be changed. However, many of them can. A few small changes can go a long way towards building a stronger, healthier you.
First and foremost, arthritis is an inflammatory process. Reduce the inflammation in your body and you will greatly reduce your risk of developing arthritis. Fast food, pre-packaged foods, chips, soft drinks, and artificial sugar provide very little nutrition and contain toxic chemicals that inflame your body.
Honor your body with the quality building blocks it needs to be strong and healthy: fruits, vegetables, lean meat, and raw nuts. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that fruit-on-the-bottom yogurt is a source of fruit! Eat at least 5 servings of fresh fruit each day.
Secondly, one of the most effective ways to reduce the risk of arthritis is to lose weight. In fact, losing just 11 pounds can reduce your risk of developing arthritis by 50 percent. Weight loss will occur naturally when you change your diet and increase your physical activity. Get out there and move! Walk, run, bike, or swim. Do Pilates or yoga. Movement is good and it strengthens bones and joints.
Finally, address any abnormal stress on your joints now – don’t wait until pain or arthritis has already taken hold. At Tiferet Chiropractic, we see the big picture, your whole body. We evaluate your structural imbalances, muscle weaknesses, and joint fixations and show you how to correct them. This not only reduces your risk of arthritis or injury, but it also improves your ability to perform your favorite sports and activities.
Women may face an increased risk of suffering from arthritis, but developing arthritis is certainly not a foregone conclusion. Be proactive! Do what you can now to insure yourself a future without limitations.