Q: I have a family history of osteoarthritis. What can I do to prevent or delay developing it myself?
Follow a diet that emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains and healthy fats, such as monounsaturated fats (for instance, from olives, olive oil, avocados and nuts) and omega-3s (from dark oily fish, such as salmon, tuna or sardines, or from flaxseed). This not only promotes weight control, it also reduces arthritis risk by providing inflammation-fighting antioxidants and essential fatty acids.
You might also consider supplementing with glucosamine and/or chondroitin sulfate. Though there is disagreement in the medical community about their usefulness, some data suggest that they may slow cartilage loss and relieve symptoms.
Regular exercise is key. Weight-bearing activities (such as walking, yoga and tai chi) help keep joints resilient. Do take care to guard against injury to your joints, because the resulting inflammation, misalignment or damage to the bone or cartilage could increase your risk for arthritis. For instance, if you already have knee problems, biking and swimming are better choices.
Based on your family history of arthritis, it’s a good idea to ask your doctor for a referral to a physical therapist who can assess your gait and help you correct any misalignments that may cause excess wear on your joints. Such an evaluation is also appropriate for a person who is overweight or obese, has joint pain or has a history of injury to a joint.