Top Ways You Might Worsen Rheumatoid Arthritis Symptoms 

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Top Ways You Might Worsen Rheumatoid Arthritis Symptoms 

Rheumatoid arthritis symptoms flare up unexpectedly. Here’s a list of ways you might be worsening the disease without even knowing it.

Known Contributing Factors That Can Make Rheumatoid Arthritis Worse

1. Nonadherence to Treatment

After you are diagnosed with RA, your doctor will recommend a course of treatment. The treatment regimen is prescribed to help manage RA symptoms and disease activity. If you fail to adhere to the treatment regimen — by not filling prescriptions, not taking medication as directed, not exercising, skipping appointments — there is an increased risk of worsening symptoms and disease activity. That’s the case even when the nonadherence is unintentional (for example, due to forgetfulness). While your reasons for nonadherence may be entirely valid, it is your responsibility to discuss those reasons with your doctor before you make changes to the prescribed treatment regimen on your own. A medication change may be indicated, or perhaps the addition of an adjunct treatment would be to your benefit. Be sure to have that conversation with your doctor and decide on your next move together.

2. Sedentary Lifestyle

Regular physical activity is necessary for everyone, including people with RA. There are numerous health benefits associated with regular physical activity. Improved muscle strength, as well as better bone and joint health, is essential for people with RA. Rest is also needed, to restore the body from episodes of intense pain and fatigue, which are characteristic of RA. Striking a balance between rest and activity is optimal. Rest can’t become a way of life. A sedentary lifestyle actually does the opposite of what you want, leading to increased pain, fatigue, and weakness.

3. Pro-Inflammatory foods

Certain foods are believed to increase inflammation in the body. Sugar, saturated fats, trans fats, omega-6 fatty acids, refined carbohydrates, MSG, gluten, aspartame, and alcohol are among the foods and additives thought to be pro-inflammatory. A diet for rheumatoid arthritis should include anti-inflammatory foods, while pro-inflammatory foods are reduced or avoided. Check out Dr. Andrew Weil’s anti-inflammatory food pyramid.

4. Overdoing Activities

Despite the importance of regular physical activity, which we already discussed, there is a limit. It is imperative for someone with RA to respect pain signals and to recognize and accept that they have a physical limit. Ideally, you will learn to recognize your limit and stop just before you reach it. If you overdo, you risk a flare of symptoms.

5. Smoking

In research published in the journal Arthritis & Rheumatism, the authors concluded that both current and past smokers had worse symptoms and more joint damage than those who never smoked. A more recent study, published in July 2014 in the journal Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases, compared radiological progression for RA patients that were never, past, and current smokers, and found a significant association between smoking and more severe joint damage.

6. Stress

If you have rheumatoid arthritis, you don’t need me to tell you that stress makes it worse. You know because you live it. Interestingly, many rheumatoid arthritis patients are able to point to a stressful or traumatic event that occurred just before the onset of their RA. According to a study published in the journal Arthritis Research and Therapy, both immune mechanisms and nonimmune mechanisms may be responsible for increased disease activity and increased symptoms during stressful periods. Still, the association is real.

Lesser-Known Contributing Factors That Can Make Rheumatoid Arthritis Worse

7. Negativity and Pessimism

Simply put, it takes a positive attitude to achieve positive results. The opposite is true of a negative or pessimistic attitude. It is logical that you need a positive approach to stay on track with your treatment regimen, exercise routine, diet, and more. You must believe in the goal. In 2015, researchers at Penn State University concluded that greater positive mood in the moment is associated with less pain and fewer arthritis-related activity restrictions in the moment. Negative mood was associated with more activity restrictions.

8. Dehydration

We are often reminded to drink water and stay well hydrated. But for some reason, we often don’t. Dehydration is linked to fatigue, slower metabolism, worse cognitive functioning, and the formation of kidney stones. You may be surprised to learn that lack of hydration is also tied to increased joint pain.

9. Failure to Protect Joints

Joint protection is recognized as an important part of any treatment program for RA. The goal of joint protection is to reduce pain, prevent deformity, stabilize the joints, and reduce stress on the joints. This is accomplished through the use of splints, braces, assistive devices, exercise, proper body mechanics, pacing your activities, and modifying your environment if necessary. Failure to protect the joints can make RA worse.

Source: Top Ways You Might Worsen Rheumatoid Arthritis Symptoms | Everyday Health

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