There are a variety of risk factors associated with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), a disease that affects nearly three million Americans and strikes two to three times more women than men. Research has shown that genetics and cigarette smoke may contribute to RA, but a recent study provided by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences has concluded that women who live near a highway may be at an increased risk as well.
When this team of researchers reviewed the records of over 90,000 women from the years 1976-2004, using the location of where they resided in 2000, the scientists figured the distance each woman lived from roads that had more than two lanes of traffic. Of 687 women who developed arthritis, those who resided within 50 meters of a highway evidenced a 31 percent increased risk of developing RA than those who lived more than 200 meters – about 164 feet – from the highway. Further, those women who lived in the Midwest or in the Northeastern areas of the U.S. were at greater risk of developing RA due to notably higher levels of air pollution in those areas over the years.
What the researchers suggested in their findings is that exposure to air pollution and matter that arises from traffic is similar to the effects of cigarette smoke. Like cigarette smoke, air pollution can contribute to respiratory inflammation, disrupting the ability of the lungs to function and can cause asthma.
I don’t know if this study might encourage you to relocate, but there are also several other risk factors to RA and arthritis in general that you can address without packing up and shipping out.
If you are overweight, the added pounds puts stress on your joints and can actually change the normal shape of those joints. If you sustain an injury to a joint, causing cartilage damage, arthritis may develop. Try to avoid activities that put continued stress on your joints, such as squatting, kneeling, or lifting heavy objects. Make sure you incorporate exercise into your daily routine as well. If you tend to be inactive and are best friends with your couch, your muscles and joints can become weak and stiff. It is time to get up, get out, and get going! Low estrogen levels, typically seen after menopause, can increase your risk. Talk to your doctor about taking medication or supplements to increase your estrogen levels.
There are certainly risk factors that are not quite easily navigated and not directly under your control. Age is one of them. We all get older. While age is not a direct contributing factor to arthritis, you are more likely to develop symptoms with age. If you have a family history of the disease, that can increase your chances. Loose or odd-shaped joints are also contributing factors. Do your knees bend outward or towards each other? If so, that can create an imbalance in the joints as the cartilage wears down unevenly. Further, a prior infection in a particular joint may increase your risk for arthritis.
To assess your overall health and lifestyle, speak with a doctor to determine your best course of action for strong preventative measures against arthritis. You and your doctor can make a “joint” decision that is in your best interest. And, if you live near a highway and have had a hankering to move lately, you may just now have the perfect excuse! Think of the great exercise you will get while packing! However, leave the heavy lifting to the experts!
(Information for this article was found at http://www.aolhealth.com/conditions/osteoarthritis/what-increases-your-risk)