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11 Everyday Habits That Reduce Your Risk of Arthritis Symptoms

There are more than 100 forms of arthritis, and symptoms can be debilitating. But, there are things you can do regularly to protect your joints. Here's how

Alarmingly, 54 million American adults have arthritis, reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It's not just one disease either, but rather a constellation of 100 conditions that strike the joints, causing pain, stiffness, and swelling. Gout, fibromyalgia, lupus, and osteoarthritis are among some of the possible diagnoses for arthritis. Though you can't always prevent it, there are some things you can do to reduce your risk or lessen symptoms if you have it.

More than one-quarter of adults have arthritis

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Keep your weight in check

The simplest advice remains the best: Eat well and stay active to keep your weight in a healthy place. "Being overweight puts extra strain on weight-bearing joints, like hips and knees," says Robert Goldfien, MD, chief of rheumatology at Kaiser Permanente in Richmond, CA. Indeed, a 2016 study in Arthritis & Rheumatology found that obesity increased the odds of knee osteoarthritis by 4.7-fold compared to people with a healthy weight.

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Sip green tea

It's warm, it's comforting, and it's so good for joints: In a 2017 review published in Frontiers in Nutrition that looked at foods that reduce inflammation and improve common arthritis symptoms, the authors recommended green tea for its concentration of the potent antioxidant EGCG. In arthritic disease, it's been shown to help preserve bone and cartilage. Check out some some more natural remedies for arthritis.

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Drink baking soda (really)

Maybe baking soda isn't just for the back of your fridge: Research published in 2018 in The Journal of Immunology suggests that a daily dose of water and baking soda can help combat inflammatory diseases. The authors discovered that the mixture helped flip the switch on immune cells so that they fought inflammation, rather than promoting it. However, the research, which was done on both rats and in healthy medical students, is preliminary. Before you dive in, ask your doctor about this potentially easy remedy.

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Take a stretch break

Repetitive movements (like typing) can exacerbate arthritis symptoms. You need to take a break to stretch, says Dr. Goldfien, who recommends asking your IT department to install a stretch break app on your computer. "These remind you to take a break and recommend different stretching exercises to help release tension in your body and improve productivity," he says.

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Think happy thoughts

Maintaining an optimistic perspective can go a long way in keeping arthritis symptoms at bay. "Studies show that keeping a positive outlook can reduce day-to-day pain," says Dr. Goldfien. Check out these other life hacks that ease the pain of arthritis.

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Eat more fish

Research in 2017 on rheumatoid arthritis patients published in Arthritis Care and Research found that those who had fish twice a week experienced fewer aches and pains compared to those who ate it less than once a month. Healthy omega-3 fats found in fish have anti-inflammatory properties that may reduce arthritis symptoms.

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Take the stairs

When you have joint pain, your instinct might be to opt for the escalator or elevator, but staying active will help you feel your best. "Taking the stairs instead of using the elevator is a simple routine that will keep you moving," says Victor Romano, MD, an orthopedic surgeon and author of Finding The Source: Maximizing Your Results—With and Without Orthopaedic Surgery.

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Schedule workouts

While daily movement is important, so too is structured exercise. "Arthritic patients who exercise have less pain than those who do not," says Romano. He recommends working out four days a week for at least 20 minutes at a time, including a day each of endurance, strength training, interval workouts, and stretching. Try this 15-minute strength training routine that works the whole body.

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Eat a rainbow

Whether you suffer from arthritis symptoms or not, follow an anti-inflammatory diet, says Dr. Romano. "Sugar and processed foods cause inflammation of your joints. Avoid them and eat lean meats and fish and more fruits and vegetables," he says. The best diet is a Mediterranean diet. People who follow it enjoy a 23 percent lower risk of rheumatoid arthritis compared to people who don't follow it, finds preliminary research presented at the American College of Rheumatology annual meeting in 2017. Also, be wary of these foods that make your arthritis symptoms worse.

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Set a bedtime

Choose a non-negotiable time that you will turn off the TV (and your smartphone) and head up to bed. "Restful sleep can help ease your pain," says Dr. Goldfien. Enacting a wind-down bedtime routine with calm music or a guided imagery podcast can help ease you into slumber. "Relaxing is important because stress, anger, and depression can make pain worse," Dr. Goldfien adds.

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Stop smoking

Yes, there numerous reasons to ditch the cigarettes, and you can add another one to the list: Smoking as little as one pack per day for a year increases the risk of rheumatoid arthritis by 26 percent compared to those who never light up, research published in Arthritis Research & Therapy found. Nicotine and carbon monoxide may cause your immune reactions to go haywire and attack your joints. Next, check out these silent symptoms of arthritis you might be missing.

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Medically reviewed by Jill Silverman, MD, on April 27, 2020