Have you recently been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis? If so, you may well be rather shocked to find yourself saddled with such a diagnosis, and wondering, with no small amount of anxiety, just how much this disease will change your life. The frustrating thing about that question is that there is no definitive answer, since rheumatoid arthritis affects different people in different ways.
However, while predicting the future isn't possible, influencing it definitely is. By taking good care of yourself and being proactive about managing the disease, you can lessen its impact on your life, both today and in the future. Here are some tips on living with rheumatoid arthritis that can help you stop the disease from slowing you down:
Be Proactive About Treatment
Early, aggressive treatment is the key to successfully managing rheumatoid arthritis and slowing its progression. According to the Arthritis Foundation, with today's treatments remission is possible for nearly half of Americans who have the disease and achieving low to moderate disease activity is possible for many more – and chances of both are best when aggressive treatment is begun within two years of the onset of rheumatoid arthritis symptoms. So take your symptoms seriously and make sure you're seeing a doctor that does too, one who takes care to keep up with the latest research and is willing to pursue promising new treatment options to make living with rheumatoid arthritis easier for you.
Manage Your Weight
Extra weight places extra strain on weight bearing joints, so if you're carrying around a few extra pounds, losing weight is important to effective symptom management. Lightening the load on your joints can mean less inflammation, pain and stiffness and may help prevent or slow the progressive joint damage that rheumatoid arthritis can cause.
Regular exercise is crucial to managing rheumatoid arthritis, helping to build and maintain strength in muscles that support your joints, increase joint flexibility and mobility, reduce pain and stiffness, and fight fatigue, one of the most frustrating symptoms of the disease. For maximum benefit, your exercise plan should include stretching, range of motion exercises, strength training and aerobic exercise. Seeing a physical therapist for help in formulating a joint-friendly, low-impact exercise plan is a great way to get started.
Go on an Anti-Inflammatory Diet
When you're living with rheumatoid arthritis, what you eat can make a big difference in the inflammation levels throughout your body, which can affect how well you're able to manage your symptoms. Eating plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grains can help minimize inflammation, as can adding plenty of foods rich in inflammation-fighting omega-3 fatty acids to your diet, such as oily fish, walnuts and flaxseed products. Limiting foods that can promote inflammation is also important, including highly-processed convenience foods, fast food, fried foods and sugars.
Manage Your Stress
Excessive stress can worsen rheumatoid arthritis symptoms, so managing your stress can help in managing the disease. Stress reduction techniques, such as meditation or yoga can help, as can taking a stress-management course.
Rheumatoid arthritis is a lifelong disease, and treatment and lifestyle changes will not cure it. However, a good treatment plan and a healthy lifestyle can minimize its impact on your day-to-day life. Rheumatoid arthritis will, without a doubt, change your life, but that doesn't mean that you have to let it slow you down.