| Tue, May 29, 2018 @ 09:00 AM

3 Surprising Facts About Arthritis

Posted by Medicare Made Clear

Woman sitting on beachAbout 50 million Americans have arthritis. If you are one of them or know someone who is, then you know how painful it can be. But there’s more to arthritis than you may know.

The word “arthritis” means “joint inflammation.” It’s used to describe a variety of conditions that affect the joints and the tissues around the joints.

There are over 100 types of arthritis. Osteoarthritis is the most common type. It is also called degenerative arthritis. Other forms include rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and gout.

Arthritis affects many things besides the joints. Here are a few that you may be unaware of.

1. Arthritis increases the risk for heart disease, diabetes and other chronic conditions.

In a 2007 survey, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that almost half of American adults with arthritis have at least one additional chronic condition. Heart disease is the most common one. Diabetes and upper respiratory conditions follow close behind.

Experts aren’t sure why this is so. It could be that there are common risk factors. For example, age and excess weight are risk factors for arthritis, heart disease and diabetes. In addition, arthritis can interfere with physical activity. An inactive lifestyle can lead to weight gain, heart disease or diabetes.

It becomes something of a chicken-and-egg thing. But whichever comes first, these conditions seem to occur in the same people. The good news is that the same positive lifestyle behaviors may help manage or prevent all of these conditions. These include:

  • Eating a healthy diet
  • Getting regular physical activity
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Managing stress

2. Arthritis and depression often go hand-in-hand.

One-third of U.S. adults 45 and older with arthritis have depression, anxiety or both according to the CDC survey. Researchers were unable to find any pattern to who did or did not develop depression or anxiety. They conclude that these conditions need to be addressed with everyone who has arthritis.

The survey also showed that half the people with anxiety or depression never brought the subject up with their health care providers. So it’s not surprising that many people are undiagnosed and untreated. Proper treatment for anxiety or depression may help improve the physical symptoms of arthritis, such as pain.

It’s important to discuss your emotional health as well as your physical health with your doctor. Medicare’s annual Wellness Visit, covered under Part B, is a good time to have a thorough discussion. Your doctor can help you find resources that may help you manage the emotional and physical effects of arthritis and other chronic conditions.

3. Arthritis is the most common cause of disability in the United States.

Nearly 21 million Americans with arthritis experience limited activity due to their condition, the CDC says. In addition, one-third of adults 18-65 with arthritis report limits in their ability to work. This can take a big toll on the lives of the individual, their families and their communities.

It may seem counterintuitive, but physical activity is the best defense against disability. It can help reduce pain and improve physical function, mental health and quality of life. Walking, biking and swimming are good choices.

Be sure to talk to your doctor before starting a new physical activity program. It’s important to choose activities you enjoy and that are healthy for you. It’s also important to start with reasonable goals and expectations. Your doctor can help you create a plan that meets your needs and abilities.

For more information, explore MedicareMadeClear.com or contact the Medicare helpline 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227), TTY 1-877-486-2048