Osteoarthritis (OA) is a common degenerative joint disease which affects the elderly. With increase in life expectancy, OA is becoming a leading cause of physical disability among older adults globally. Overall life expectancy is not affected much by OA, but the quality of life can be significantly affected, which means is OA can significantly shorten healthy years of life.
Most people believe that OA gradually worsens and a person with OA may find it difficult to even do everyday tasks. However, this is not quite correct as recent studies suggest that all patients with osteoarthritis do not worsen with time. In most people the disease stabilises after sometime, but it may continue to progresses slowly in some cases. Proper diagnosis and treatment of OA can minimise disability and help you to lead a healthy and active life. There is no cure for OA but the following measures may help to prevent complications and progression of the disease and make living with the disease easier.
Self-care: Self-care is important for general well-being of any individual. It involves doing simple and everyday things to stay fit, maintaining good physical and mental health, preventing illness or accidents, and adequately managing any minor illness and long-term conditions. For a person with OA it means that you get involved in taking care of your own health and wellbeing with support from the people involved in your care. Simple self-care measures for a person with OA includes eating healthy food, trying to remain at a healthy weight, following the doctor’s recommendations regarding diet, exercise and medications. This may help to prevent complications due to the disease; reduce pain, anxiety, depression and fatigue; improve your quality of life and make you more active and independent.
Living healthily: Good diet and regular exercises, are life style changes that can improve the symptoms of OA. Exercise is an important for everyone with osteoarthritis. Your age and level of fitness should not be considered as a contradiction for exercises. Doing exercises daily can improve your muscle strength, joint flexibility, posture and overall fitness. Your health professional can guide you regarding the exercise that will be best for you. Healthy diet can help you to maintain your optimal body weight. If you are obese consult your healthcare professional for diet advise. Your diet should include whole grain food products, fruits and vegetable and low fat dairy products. Ensure that your diet has adequate calcium as older adults are at risk of developing weak bones (osteoporosis).
Take your medication: Your doctor may prescribe medicine or nutritional supplements (such as glucosamine sulphate or chondroitin sulphate). Follow your doctor’s recommendations regarding medications. It is important to take medicines even on days when you are feeling well. If the medicine is prescribed ‘as required’, for pain, then you need not take it if you don’t have pain.
Regular reviews: As OA is a long-term condition, regular follow up as advised by your healthcare professional is important. It helps them to assess your progress, check for side effects of medications, and need for any change in treatment.
Keeping well: Any person with a long-term condition, such as osteoarthritis, should take measures to avoid illness like flu, typhoid which can be prevented by vaccination. Consult your doctor for vaccination and other measures to avoid/prevent infections.
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