Arthritis Action Month Calls Attention To Nation's Leading Cause Of Disability And Early Actions To Limit The Impact

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The Arthritis Foundation commences national Arthritis Action Month today by challenging Americans to begin taking steps to reduce the burden of arthritis, the nation's leading cause of disability. Throughout the month, the Foundation aims to dispel common myths, highlight warning signs, and educate people on early actions that can protect joints and stave off arthritis.

Arthritis is an umbrella term for more than 100 diseases. It affects 300,000 children and one in five adults—two-thirds of who are under the age of 65. In addition, arthritis causes work limitations for nearly one in three people in the U.S. and is a more frequent cause of activity limitation than heart disease, cancer or diabetes. Annually it costs the economy $128 billion. Within the next 20 years, an estimated 67 million people will have arthritis if the trend continues.

"Arthritis is serious and it is time we move from simply being aware of the disease's existence to actually doing something about ending the threat," says Dr. Patience White, vice president of public health for the Arthritis Foundation. "Arthritis Action Month is the perfect time to change the course of the disease by knowing the warning signs and protecting your joints to limit the impact."

Warning Signs
It's important to recognize the symptoms of arthritis early as many forms of arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis, can cause irreversible joint damage, often within the first two years of the disease. Osteoarthritis, the most common form, can develop within 10 years of a major joint injury.

Warning signs of arthritis include:

>> Pain
>> Stiffness
>> Occasional swelling and/or tenderness
>> Difficulty moving a joint
>> Redness around a joint

Because symptoms can develop suddenly, it is crucial to see a rheumatologist if these signs persist for more than two weeks.

Take Action to Change the Course
"Fortunately, there are simple steps everyone can take now to manage or even prevent the onset of arthritis, like protecting your joints, weight control and staying physically active," says White. "As little as 30 minutes of daily physical activity can help reduce arthritis pain, increase mobility and lead toward a more active, independent life."

The Arthritis Foundation offers the following tips for protecting joints as well as preventing and decreasing the pain and disability of arthritis.

>> Physical activity – Physical activity keeps joints flexible, maintains or improves muscle strength and assists with weight reduction. Being physically active can prevent, delay or reduce the impact of certain forms of arthritis.

>> Weight control – For every one pound of weight lost, there is a four-pound reduction in the load exerted on each knee for each step taken during daily activities. Losing as few as 11 pounds can cut the risk of developing knee osteoarthritis by 50 percent.

>> Joint protection – Protecting joints can prevent strain or stress on painful joints. Keeping the muscles around joints strong can help prevent injury to the joint. Braces, canes and shoe inserts can also assist with pain reduction.

For actions you can take throughout the month of May to change the course of arthritis, visit the Arthritis Action Zone hosted by the Arthritis Foundation at www.arthritis.org/action.