What is Rheumatoid Arthritis?
Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic and progressive autoimmune disease signified by inflammation of the joints. Unchecked, it can result in immobility and deformity as well as significant pain, especially in the fingers, wrists, ankles and feet.
What to Eat with Rheumatoid Arthritis
The advice for people with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is very similar to the advice for the general population: eat a healthy, balanced diet full of green vegetables, lean proteins and healthy fats.
Specifically, make sure you’re getting enough omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish like salmon. Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to fight inflammation as well as protect the heart — which is important since rheumatoid arthritis patients are at higher risk for cardiovascular problems.
You can also try supplementing your diet with fish oil. Studies have shown that fish oil is effective at treating the symptoms of RA for many patients when taken at doses of approximately 4 grams a day (4 standard capsules).
How to Move with Rheumatoid Arthritis
A physical regimen for RA patients is all about balance. Take care to avoid stressing your joints whenever possible. If you can slide a heavy object across a counter or floor instead of lifting it or use your palms to lift an object instead of grasping it with your hands, you’re less likely to aggravate your joints.
Yoga can be especially beneficial for RA patients, thanks to the emphasis on strengthening and gently stretching the joints.
If you’re feeling healthy and aren’t suffering through a flare-up, maintaining a cardio and strength-training program can also do wonders for your body. Strength training is especially important as a person gets older, as muscle mass typically decreases with age. Work with your doctor to develop a fitness regimen that is appropriate for your lifestyle and symptoms.
How to Mend Your Mind with Rheumatoid Arthritis
Sometimes the toughest battle with a chronic illness is the mental one. Joining a support group, whether it’s online or in person, can help you feel less alone in your struggles as well as help you find strategies to beat them.
No matter where you are in your journey with RA, you might also consider counseling. Learning to cope with a chronic illness can be very difficult emotionally, and if you’ve been coping for a long time, it’s understandable to feel run down. Don’t be afraid to seek out professional help to feel better.
It’s also important in the age of the internet to remember there are a lot of resources online that can help. Check out blogs of fellow RA patients, or consider starting one yourself!