How to prevent rheumatoid arthritis

Many people wonder if rheumatoid arthritis can be prevented. We show you what science says about it and some key questions.

Last update: December 16, 2021

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder characterized by systemic inflammatory processes that mainly affect the joints. The evidence indicates that it is one of the most common rheumatic diseases in the world, which generates a deterioration in the quality of life and a high cost of treatment. With this in mind, can rheumatoid arthritis be prevented?

This disease has no cure and has a high degree of genetic predisposition. Thus, you are more likely to develop it if there is a family history. It is known that it is more frequent in women and that the mother’s habits during pregnancy can affect its manifestation in the baby.

Can rheumatoid arthritis be prevented?

There is no consensus among researchers on what causes rheumatoid arthritis. It is known to be an autoimmune disease, so it occurs when the immune system attacks itself.

Being a woman and following some harmful habits during pregnancy increases your predisposition; as well as the history in direct relatives.

For all this, we can’t say rheumatoid arthritis can be prevented. Not completely, at least. Since there are variables that affect that you cannot handle, there will always be a margin of probabilities for you to develop the disease. But nevertheless, Scientists have listed several risk factors associated with the disorder; some of them modifiable.

In short, you can reduce your chances of developing the condition by avoiding modifiable risk factors. People must be aware even so that there will always be a margin that they will not be able to control, so there is the possibility that they will manifest the disorder in the future.

7 tips to prevent rheumatoid arthritis

Once the context in which rheumatoid arthritis can be prevented has been clarified, it is time to indicate which habits you should include in your day-to-day to do so. In general, having a healthy life is positive to avoid any type of disease. In the specific case of this autoimmune disorder, we highlight the following.

1. Stop smoking

Long-term smoking doesn’t just lead to lung problems. In fact, constant smoking is linked to many diseases.

Evidence associates tobacco smoke with an increased risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis. Although the association is stronger in active smokers, passive smokers are also at risk. Oxidative stress, the formation of autoantibodies, internal inflammatory processes, and epigenetic changes influence the development of the disorder.

Therefore, if you want to prevent rheumatoid arthritis, you must stop smoking. Try to reduce the number of cigarettes you smoke per day, so that you gradually quit the habit. Diagnosed patients should adhere to this advice as well, as reducing tobacco use positively affects symptoms of the condition.

2. Reduce alcohol consumption

Researchers have also found a link between binge drinking and rheumatoid arthritis. However, other experts suggest that low and even moderate consumption has a positive effect. Despite this ambivalence of results, the general rule is for people to cut down on alcoholic beverages to prevent rheumatoid arthritis.

There is a debate about what is considered low, moderate and excessive alcohol consumption. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), binge drinking is 8 or more drinks for women and 15 or more drinks for men during the week. The less you drink, the better. Remember that this will bring you other health benefits.

3. Reduce episodes of stress

Stress has been listed as a risk factor for developing rheumatoid arthritis. The mechanism by which stress affects this and other autoimmune disorders (such as psoriasis, for example) has not been found, but it is thought that it does so by weakening the immune system.

To prevent rheumatoid arthritis, you should try to minimize daily stress episodes. For this you can include a series of habits such as breathing exercises, yoga, meditation or mindfulness. Anything that helps reduce these episodes will be welcome as a complement.

4. Maintain a healthy weight

Studies and research suggest a possible connection between being overweight and obesity with this autoimmune disorder. Indeed, many patients with these conditions are diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, especially when there are other risk factors already mentioned.

5. Get physical

The benefits of exercise are indirect, but significant in the long term. By doing physical activity you control your weight, strengthen your bones and joints, avoid dozens of complications and diseases, keep your immune system healthy, reduce stress levels and more.

All of this has a positive effect on preventing rheumatoid arthritis. Ideally, you should opt for aerobic exercise, although any type of physical activity is welcome. You can follow the recommendations of the World Health Organization (WHO) of 150 minutes of vigorous exercise or 300 minutes of moderate exercise per week.

6. Avoid bone loss

Over the years, the deterioration of bone health becomes evident. To slow down this process, it is worth including foods with plenty of calcium and vitamin D.

To a certain extent, there is nothing you can do to prevent bone loss, since it is a natural phenomenon that begins after the age of thirty. However, there are many things you can do to reduce its acceleration. We leave you with some ideas:

  • Maintain a consistent exercise regimen throughout the week.
  • Make sure to include calcium and vitamin D in your diet.
  • Take vitamin supplements for bone health if recommended by your trusted doctor.
  • Avoid prolonged use of glucocorticoids, unless expressly indicated by a doctor.
  • Avoid sedentary lifestyle.

By applying these practical tips permanently, you will be reducing the natural deterioration of bone material. Remember that, although this begins around 30-35 years, accelerates much more after 50. This is why it is of great importance that the recommendations continue to be applied after this age range.

7. Control infections and allergies

Some infectious or allergic processes can result in a maladjustment of the immune system. In patients prone to developing rheumatoid arthritis this can be translated as a manifestation of the disorder. This is why, as a general rule, you should keep control of possible infections or allergies that you have been diagnosed with.

You don’t need to make big sacrifices when it comes to preventing rheumatoid arthritis. Having a healthy life is enough to minimize risks, although this does not imply a total reduction. Being aware of the symptoms is of great importance to act early and initiate timely treatment from the hand of a specialist.

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