Natural Ways for Keeping Your Joints Healthy as You Age| August 25, 2022
Your joints are vital to your mobility and wellbeing. When your joints become stiff, swollen, and achy, even the simplest actions can be irritating and frustrating. Sometimes the pain is only momentary, like when your back suffers after sitting at a desk all day long. However, your joints may become more susceptible to deterioration as you age. Joint pain or stiffness is a chronic disorder that cannot be treated or reversed; therefore, it must be managed from an early age.
Even though joint pain is a natural part of aging, you can take certain preventative actions for keeping your joints healthy as you age. Active joints have a lower risk of experiencing injury and pain later in life. Learn more below about joint health and some natural ways for keeping your joints healthy as you age.
What Changes Occur to Joints with Age?
The bones in body are connected by links called joints, which allow for mobility. These intricate junctions are made up of tendons, ligaments, and cartilage. In addition, they contain synovial fluid that reduces friction and cushions your bones. Healthy joints allow you to perform walking, lifting, bending and gripping without difficulty or pain1.
Joint problems can occur at any age. However, with age, joint mobility becomes less flexible and stiffer due to a loss in lubricating fluid, weakening cartilage, and decreased bone density and muscle mass. Ligaments also contract and become less flexible, resulting in painful joints, achy hips, and swelling hands2.
Reasons Behind Joint Pain and Stiffness
Inactivity contributes to the majority of these age-related joint alterations. The joint's movement and the associated "stress" of movement keep the fluid in motion. Inactivity shrinks and hardens cartilage, resulting in reduced joint mobility.
These alterations may result in joint illnesses and injuries, including arthritis, sprains or strains, and tendinitis. Arthritis is becoming the leading cause of joint discomfort in older adults. It is a degenerative illness caused by damage to the cartilage, bone, or synovium (lining) of the joint3.
The two most frequent types of arthritis differ significantly in several ways. Here is how to distinguish between them.
- Osteoarthritis is caused by cartilage wear and tear, which leads to cartilage deterioration over time. It causes stiffness, pain, and sometimes swelling in the joints. It also makes the joints less able to move. Osteoarthritis usually affects just one joint or a pair of joints like knees.
- In rheumatoid arthritis, the immune system targets the lining of the joints, causing swelling and inflammation. It is recognized by painful, heated, swollen joints as well as persistent joint stiffness. Rheumatoid arthritis can affect more than one joint over time. It affects females 2.5 times more often than males4.
Risks Associated with Joint Problems
When joints degrade or degenerate, inflammation, stiffness, and pain may result. These symptoms may hinder your ability to perform specific tasks.
According to the CDC, individuals with joint disorders (such as arthritis) are more likely to have difficulty holding small objects, pushing or dragging large or heavy objects, bending, stooping, or kneeling, sitting or standing for long periods, and walking or ascending stairs without resting, etc5.
Additionally, joint degradation can impact your general health. For instance, arthritis symptoms might result in physical limits that can interfere with your career and personal life. And for some individuals, decreased mobility and independence might increase stress levels. This explains why persons with arthritis are more likely than those without arthritis to report a lower health-related quality of life (HRQOL)6.
Taking care of your joints on a regular basis might help you avoid some of the changes that can have an effect on your mobility and overall health.
Natural Ways for Keeping Your Joints Healthy as You Age
Joint pain, stiffness, and reduced movement are not inevitable as you age. No matter how old you are, you may take simple precautions to ensure the health of your joints. Let's examine some natural ways for keeping your joints healthy as you age.
1. Maintain A Healthy Weight
There is a limit to how much weight you can put on your joints. Consequently, bearing excess weight might place undue strain on your joints, which they may not be able to withstand. In contrast, a lack of muscle can compromise the stability of your joints if you're underweight.
According to research, obesity is the leading risk factor for osteoarthritis7. Extra weight can strain weight-bearing joints, such as the back, hips, knees, and ankles. 2015 research indicated that the risk of knee osteoarthritis increases by 35% for every 5 kg/m2 increase in body mass index (BMI). Therefore, maintaining a healthy weight may preserve your joints in excellent condition8.
Consume a diet rich in a variety of nutrients, engage in physical activity regularly, and get plenty of sleep to keep your weight in a healthy range. However, keep in mind that "healthy weight" varies from person to person.
2. Keep Yourself Hydrated
Water makes up approximately 80% of cartilage in the body. Also, drinking enough water helps your joints make synovial fluid. This gel-like substance safeguards your bones against wear and tear. If you don't drink enough water, your body will take water from your cartilage and other parts, damaging your joints9.
Substitute water for soft drinks and energy drinks. This will hydrate your joints and heart more effectively.
Not sure about how much water to drink? Follow your body's cues: Ensure that you always have water available. When thirsty, you should drink. And boost water intake during hot weather and exercise.
If you are still uncertain, the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies provides the following recommendations: women should consume 91 oz of water per day, and men should consume 91 oz of water per day for appropriate hydration10.
3. Exercise Regularly
Some people are concerned that exercise will create or exacerbate joint problems. However, the ancient proverb that "motion is lotion" holds true. Keeping your joints lubricated and healthy can be achieved by regular physical activity. An active lifestyle may prevent or alleviate joint discomfort, stiffness, and inflammation11. Additionally, regular exercise may prevent cartilage degeneration12.
Try these exercises to promote healthy joints:
Walking and other low-impact workouts place less stress on your joints. In addition to feeding your cartilage with nutrients to maintain your bones and joints, consistent movement also promotes blood flow13. In a recent study, persons with knee osteoarthritis who walked experienced reduced pain14.
Neuromuscular exercise is designed to enhance sensorimotor control and movement. The workout incorporates both functional and sport-specific moves. And it may assist older persons in improving their physical function, including those with hip or knee arthritis15.
Strength training can also help keep your joints in good shape. Evidence shows that it can help people with osteoarthritis improve their muscle strength, joint function, and pain levels16.
In a 2016 study, resistance training in water increased the cartilage thickness of the knee joint. And experts remark that water-based exercises provide a challenging workout while being gentle on the joints17.
The 2019 guidelines of American College of Rheumatology and the Arthritis Foundation strongly recommend practicing tai chi to preserve or improve the health of knee or hip joints18.
The CDC advises adults to do 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise five times per week. It is an excellent way to improve joint and overall health19.
4. Warm Up Before You Work Out and Cool Down After
You may be tempted to exercise without a warmup or cooldown. However, neglecting these essential workout measures could increase your chance of joint injury. According to one study, warming up and cooling down for just 15 minutes can lower the chance of injury20.
Experts advise beginning your workout gently in order to raise your heart rate and warm up your muscles. Slowly reducing your workout intensity can help you cool down and bring your heart and respiration rates to a normal state. Finish your cooldown with further stretching exercises while your muscles are still heated21.
Consider using dynamic stretches during your warmup and static stretches during your cooldown. Dynamic stretching is an excellent approach to warm up before exercise because it simulates the movements you'll be performing, such as leg swings and walking lunges. Additionally, these stretches enhance blood flow to the muscles, which decreases their resistance and increases their flexibility.
5. Consume More Anti-Inflammatory Foods
Chronic inflammation increases the likelihood of acquiring numerous diseases, such as arthritis22. Fortunately, many foods can aid in reducing inflammation throughout the body, particularly in the joints. Here are some examples of anti-inflammatory foods:
- Green leafy vegetables, like broccoli, and spinach.
- Blueberries, and blackberries, as well as other berries.
- Nuts and seeds, including almonds, walnuts, and chia seeds.
- Fatty fish, including salmon, trout, and sardines.
These and numerous other anti-inflammatory foods include essential nutrients, such as antioxidants, that can help keep your joints healthy23.
6. Consider Giving Up Smoking If You Do
Tobacco use and smoking are risk factors for a variety of diseases, including cardiovascular disease and cancer. Additionally, smoking can harm your joints and bones. For example, smoking increases the likelihood of developing osteoporosis and rheumatoid arthritis. According to a study, those with arthritis who smoke cigarettes may experience greater cartilage loss and pain than those who do not. Since smoking causes inflammation throughout the body, it might make it more difficult for the body to recover from an injury and heal24.
Obviously, giving up smoking for good isn't easy. Consider, however: after eight hours of not smoking, your blood's carbon monoxide level returns to normal, and your blood's oxygen level rises.
Plan ahead and get support to boost your chances of success if you're considering quitting smoking.
7. Use Correct Posture
You can lower the chance of injury to your joints and surrounding muscles if you maintain a proper posture. Being attentive to your posture while doing repetitive activities, sitting, and standing — and being extra cautious when moving or lifting large objects — helps prevent severe injury or joint damage.
8. When To See a Doctor
Muscle discomfort following an exercise session is one thing. Another symptom is soreness in the joints after working out. If you're sore after working out in a way that makes sense for what you did, and the soreness goes away quickly, you're probably fine. However, joint pain is your body's method of alerting you that something is wrong.
When this occurs, it is time to see a doctor. It could be something easy to fix, like the wrong form. There may also be a more complex issue that has to be addressed, like early-onset osteoarthritis.
According to experts, we cannot prevent or delay disease progression until we know that it exists.
The Bottom Line
Joint issues can result in pain and stiffness, which can have a negative impact on your health and quality of life. Consequently, maintaining or improving joint health is necessary for healthy aging. Fortunately, there are various things you can do, such as engaging in regular exercise, for keeping joints healthy as you age.
- Choosing a selection results in a full page refresh.
- Press the space key then arrow keys to make a selection.