Osteoarthritis and being Overweight
Being overweight or obese can cause a number of health issues from hypertension to diabetes to heart failure. And according to a recent study, we can now add osteoarthritis the list. The condition is a progressively degenerative one and often begins with a slow (or rapid) weakening and eventual deterioration of the cartilage in the knees, which leads directly to osteoarthritis. Why does it start in the knees? As you might expect, obese and even overweight people can put tremendous pressure on their joints; the fact is that the knee is not built to withstand such extreme weighs.
While it is true that there are other factors that can cause cartilage loss in the joints, obesity is not only the leading one, but it is also the most preventable.
What is the cost? Well, as you may know, cartilage is just a cushion that prevents the bones from grinding against each other in the joints. So, when this cushion is compromised and begins to deteriorate, walking can become difficult, even painful.
As we mentioned, the actual condition is called osteoarthritis and it is currently the most common type of arthritis in the US. According to recent numbers, more than 27 million people have been diagnosed with it. These cases range from very mild cases of joint discomfort to severe ones where mobility has been affected, or even lost.
Although the condition is typically slow to develop and most patients can successful manage their pain or discomfort for many years, occasionally patients undergo a rapid deterioration of cartilage that can lead to complete immobilization. As you might expect, this condition is further exasperated and often expedited if the patient is overweight or obese.
In fact, one recent study focused solely on the relationship between cartilage loss and obesity. The study, which lasted for nearly three years, followed more than three hundred patient-participants who had little or no loss of cartilage in their joints, specifically in the knees. Researchers were surprised to find that after only two years, more than one in five patients had experiences some cartilage loss and that more than one in twenty had experienced rapid cartilage loss. Over the course of the study, it was also discovered that the more weight an obese person gained, the more likely he or she was to experience rapid cartilage loss.
Researcher also reported that cartilage loss was a consistent and that race, age, or gender did not seem to play any role in rates of degeneration.
Unfortunately for patients who suffer from osteoarthritis, there are is no known cure and treatment options are quite limited. For those who are experiencing extreme pain or mobility issues, the only recommended course of action is a surgical procedure—total joint replacement. The surgery is not only extremely expensive, but also painful and will require many months, even years of subsequent physical therapy.
Presently, the only surefire way to slow the progression of the disease is to lose weight. Doctors may also recommend a regime of vitamins and health supplements that are believed to have some positive effects.
However, doctors are not optimistic about the prospects for a cure or even that the numbers will come down any time soon. In fact, many believe that the cases of osteoarthritis will inevitably continue to increase as our society gets older, fatter and lives longer.