Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) can be described as an autoimmune condition. This is a condition where the immune system attacks the protective lining of joints. This can lead to cartilage and bone being damaged and causing pain, redness and swelling. Researchers aren’t sure what causes RA. The risk of developing RA could be increased by genetics and environmental factors.
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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, smoking significantly raises your risk of developing RA. An increase in risk for RA is seen in those who have smoked before. This is the only risk factor you can control. Smoking can also lead to RA symptoms that progress more quickly.
Stop smoking today if you are a smoker. You can reduce your risk of developing RA later in your life by quitting smoking. Here are some tips to help you quit smoking:
Write down the reasons why you are quitting. This list will remind you to not smoke if you feel tempted. The list could include statements like “I want RA to be prevented,” “I wish to save money,” and “I want my life to be longer and more fulfilling.”
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Assess any previous quitting attempts and identify ways to improve. If you have tried to quit smoking before but failed, then identify the reasons. You might have had a stressful event or been to a location that made it tempting to smoke. These behaviors can be avoided if you know how to recognize them.
Tell your family and friends. Encourage your family and friends to hold you responsible for quitting smoking. You can also get support from your family and friends.
Use medications. If you would like the extra help, consider using these U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved methods, such as nicotine patches or gum. There are also prescription medications. These include Zyban and Chantix (varenicline).
Reduce that extra weight
Overweight people are more likely to develop RA. According to the Mayo Clinic women diagnosed with RA after age 55 are more likely than those who are overweight. You can reduce your risk of developing RA by taking steps to maintain a healthy weight. These steps could include:
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Set up an appointment with your primary doctor. Discuss what a healthy weight is for your height and build. Ask your doctor about any concerns you may have regarding an exercise program. Also, ask if your doctor has any recommendations for a diet that is best for your overall health.
Set a reasonable weight loss goal. It is safe to lose 1 to 1.5 pounds each week.
Healthy eating habits are important. Healthy choices such as whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and legumes should be emphasized in your diet. When possible, choose lean proteins such as fish, turkey, or skinless chicken. Avoid high-fat, sugary, salty, or fatty foods.
Exercise. Combine strength training and aerobic exercise. Strength training can help reduce bone loss which could be a serious side effect of RA. Stretching can help reduce stiffness and pain associated with RA. Avoid high-impact exercise during a flare up (a time of severe arthritis pain). RA symptoms can be worsened by intense or aggressive exercise.
Limit your exposure to polluting substances
Research has shown that RA risk can be increased by early exposure to certain environmental pollutants. Although you might not be able avoid environmental irritants all the time, it is best to avoid asbestos and/or silicon as much as possible. Wearing safety gear is essential if you are exposed to hazardous chemicals.
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Get assistance early
If you are experiencing symptoms of RA, consult a doctor immediately. The CDC states that aggressive treatment early on can prevent serious side effects from RA. This can help reduce the chance of serious joint damage. Most likely, your doctor will refer you to a RA specialist.