Could You be Diagnosed with Arthritis? Five Risk Factors You Ought to Know About

knee joints

More than 50 million people in the United States have currently been diagnosed with some form of arthritis. Doctors also estimate that, by the year 2040, that number will have climbed to 78 million people.

Anyone can develop arthritis, but some people are more prone to it than others. Read on to learn about five of the most well-known arthritis risk factors, as well as tips on how you can prevent arthritis and maintain your quality of life.

  1. Genetics

If you have a family history of arthritis, your chances of being diagnosed with it yourself are far greater. This is especially true for people who have a family history of rheumatoid arthritis.

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that causes the immune system to attack to joint tissue. This type of arthritis has specifically been linked to two genetic markers: HLA-B27 and HLA-DR4.

Of course, just because you have a genetic predisposition to something, that doesn’t automatically mean you will be diagnosed with it. Lifestyle factors (diet, exercise, stress, etc.) can trigger many health conditions, especially autoimmune conditions like rheumatoid arthritis.

  1. Obesity

Obesity is one of the most well-known risk factors for developing arthritis.

When you’re obese, more pressure is placed on your joints. This, in turn, can lead to increased wear and tear on the cartilage that cushions the joints. As the cartilage wears down, you’re more likely to experience the inflammation and joint pain that characterize osteoarthritis.

Obesity may not directly cause rheumatoid arthritis, but it can make symptoms worse. In addition to the immune system attacking the joint tissue and causing pain, people with rheumatoid arthritis also have to deal with the added pressure their weight is placing on their joints.

  1. Previous Injuries

If you’ve injured yourself in the past, you’re more likely to deal with arthritis later on.

This is especially true of fractures and sprains of the knee joint, ankle joint, elbow joint, shoulder joint, or even the thumb joint.

These kinds of injuries cause irregularities in the joint surface or the way the joint bears weight and can lead to poor movement patterns and chronic inflammation.

  1. Uncomfortable Shoes

The type of shoes you wear can also increase your risk of developing osteoarthritis. If you wear high heels or shoes with pointed toes on a regular basis, it may be time to switch these shoes out for something a bit more comfortable.

When you wear high heels, you put more pressure on your knees. This extra pressure, in turn, can wear down your cartilage and increase your arthritis risk. Pointy shoes with a narrow toe box can also lead to arthritis in the feet or toe joints.

It’s especially important to choose more comfortable footwear as you enter into your thirties and forties. As you age, you’ll need to be more careful about your shoe choices to keep arthritis at bay in your fifties, sixties, and beyond.

  1. Flat Feet

Even you don’t wear high heels or shoes with pointy toes on a regular basis, if you have flat feet, you could still be at risk of developing arthritis.

People who have flat feet tend to experience more ankle strain, knee strain — especially in the inner knee — and hip strain when they walk. This strain, over time, can lead to arthritis in the ankles, knees, and/or hips.

Bonus Arthritis Prevention Tips

If you have any of these arthritis risk factors, it’s important to take steps to prevent an arthritis diagnosis in the future. Remember, just because you have a predisposition, that doesn’t automatically guarantee a diagnosis.

Some specific steps you can take to prevent arthritis include:

  • Support injured joints to prevent future injury. For example, wear a knee brace to support a bad knee or thumb brace to stabilize your sprained thumb.
  • Wear orthotics to support your feet, whether you have flat feet or have to wear uncomfortable shoes for work.
  • Exercise and eat a balanced diet to help you maintain a healthy weight

You may also want to consider genetic testing to find out whether or not you have any gene markers associated with conditions like rheumatoid arthritis.

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