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Senior Health 2022

What to look out for to keep your joints healthy

iStock / Getty Images Plus / Sanja Radin

Professor Deborah Eastwood

President, British Orthopaedic Association

While aching joints are a normal part of the ageing process, find out what you need to know to keep them healthy.

As we get older, one of the biggest signs of ageing is aching joints. While this is part of the normal process of ageing, there are some things you should look out for which could be signs of something more serious such as arthritis. The symptoms of arthritis are pain, stiffness, swelling and a feeling of grating within the joint — often in the knees and hips. While there is no way to avoid arthritis completely, there are a few simple things that can help keep your joints healthy and lessen the chances of symptoms developing from joint degeneration.

Exercise and diet

As we get older, it’s important to continue to be active and exercise. Anything you enjoy is worth continuing, although it may be best to avoid high-impact sports and activities. Walking, gentle strengthening exercises and swimming are perhaps better exercises to undertake as we age.

Remember that what’s great for you and your overall health is also best for your joints. So, try to maintain good habits like not sitting too long during the day and avoiding junk food and smoking. A sedentary lifestyle can make joint pain and stiffness worse — so people, then, end up exercising less. It all becomes a vicious spiral.

Research has found that healthier patients have
better outcomes from their surgery.

Mental health

We must also not forget our mental health. Do what you can to keep a happy, positive mindset — for yourself as well as your joints. Research suggests low mood can worsen the experience of joint pain, which can, in turn, put you off exercising.

If you can maintain a positive mental attitude, then your ability to cope with aches and pains is improved. As a consequence, you can get out and enjoy an active social life and get the benefits that joint movement and gentle exercise bring.

Joint replacement surgery

If you do find that you need joint replacement surgery, be reassured as hip and knee replacements are some of the most effective of all medical and surgical treatments. Research has found that healthier patients have better outcomes from their surgery. It is therefore important to keep as active as you can while you wait, so you can stay as healthy as possible — which will help you recover faster too.

At the British Orthopaedic Association, we have put together some resources for patients while they are waiting for surgery. These are available on our website at www.boa.ac.uk/patients. In addition, charities Versus Arthritis and Arthritis Action have some excellent advice on exercise, diet and wellbeing.

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