Now that we have effective medications to treat this disease, living with rheumatoid arthritis is not as scary as once it may have been. You may still want to make a couple of adjustments in your lifestyle to help control the symptoms and prevent worsening of the disease. These are the 7 golden rules to help you live easier with rheumatoid arthritis:
1) Rest as needed
Inflammation associated with rheumatoid arthritis can cause significant fatigue. If your disease is active, you may need intermittent periods of rest during your day.
Staying active is an essential components of living with rhuematoid arthritis. With prolonged inactivity, joints will stiffen and muscles will become weak. This can actually exacerbate the pain in rheumatoid arthritis. Therefore it is a good idea to exercise your joints and muscles. If your arthritis is active, you may engage in milder forms of exercise until your disease is under better control. Many people with arthritis find it easier to exercise in the pool- swimming, aqua-aerobics, etc. Walking and biking are other, generally well tolerated forms of exercise. If you find that a particular exercise causes pain and swelling in your joints, opt for a different type of exercise instead.
3) Eat a healthy diet
Although there is no specific diet for rheumatoid arthritis, eating healthy, well balanced meals can be beneficial. A diet low in saturated fat and high in greens will help keep your heart healthy. While a healthy diet is important for everyone, it is especially crucial in people with rheumatoid arthritis, who are at higher risk for developing heart disease. If you are overweight, losing weight will lessen the load on your joints and help ease some of the pain.
4) Protect your joints
You may find that wrapping a joint with splints or braces can provide more stability to the joint and ease your pain. If you have arthritis
in your hip or knee, using a cane or a walker can help unload some of the weight. Nowadays, many assistive devices make living with rheumatoid arthritis easier. Some examples include:
- Electrical appliances (can openers, power tools)
- Use of velcro instead of zippers or buttons
- Padded handles for pots/pans, toothbrush, pen, keys, for easy grip
- Elevated seats or chair legs
- Larger door/cabinet/drawer handles
- Many more
These devices may be available in pharmacies, surgical supply stores, or online. Here are just a few examples of places you can look:
4) Consider Supplements
While herbal supplements and vitamins do not play a major role in rheumatoid arthritis, data suggests some benefits for several supplements:
People with rheumatoid arthritis are at risk for developing osteoporosis; therefore vitamin D supplements may help prevent this. Fish oil is rich in omega-3 and may have anti-inflammatory properties Borage seed oil and Turmeric also have mild anti-inflammatory effects.
5) Keep your followup appointments
Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic disease. You will most likely need regular visits with your rheumatologist or primary care physician to adjust your medications, monitor your disease, and prevent complications from rheumatoid arthritis.
6) Get your vaccines in order
Like in many chronic conditions, people with rheumatoid arthritis are encouraged to have yearly flu shots. Pneumonia vaccine is also recommended. If you are on medications that can lower your immune system, you should also get vaccinated for shingles.
7) Stop smoking!
We now have sufficient data that shows smoking is not only a risk for developing rheumatoid arthritis, it also can exacerbate the disease and interfere with the medications that are used to treat it.