Dr. Michael Lewko
Stay Active. “While patients with arthritis may complain that exercise hurts, it’s important to stay active and find exercises that will stimulate your bones, strengthen your muscles, tone your tendons and ligaments, and promote cardiovascular health,” Dr. Lewko said. For those with osteoarthritis, “Swimming is great for load-bearing joints and tai chi enhances balance and mind-body spirit.” For those with RA, “Inflammation is the major factor and we need to bring down the fire causing all the havoc; walking, yoga and aerobic exercises will help get blood flowing and boost circulation.” For both OA and RA, stretching and physical therapy can bring relief from pain while enhancing strength.
Eat Healthy. Dr. Lewko said that a healthy diet can help prevent or slow the progression of both OA and RA. He recommends “avoiding fast or highly processed foods — as well as items high in sugar — and opting for a classic Mediterranean diet, which features more greens, fruits and vegetables, fish and healthy oils.” Patients with RA may find that spices such as cumin, turmeric, ginger and chili pepper can ease inflammation, while those with OA may benefit from avoiding gluten and nightshade vegetables, which can trigger flare-ups in some.
Boost Immunity. According to Dr. Lewko, individuals with RA in particular should take steps to improve their immune health. “This means refraining from smoking, enhancing digestion through the use of probiotics and practicing good dental care,” he said.
Seek Balance. Dr. Lewko recommends joint protection and energy conservation techniques for everyone. “It’s about pursuing a balanced lifestyle and doing everything in moderation,” he said. “This includes being active, enjoying nature, eating and sleeping well, reducing stress and being mindful.
“Overall, there have been many technological advances in the field of arthritis that the medical community can use to treat patients, but there isn’t really a magic bullet,” Dr. Lewko said. “We want patients to be empowered to help their own body heal itself and to be an active part of the treatment and prevention. As a team, we can achieve it together.”