The hope of regenerative medicine research as a treatment or even cure for arthritis has outpaced results, but new therapies aimed at repairing or rebuilding are the subject of intense research.
There are more than 100 types of arthritis and related conditions. People of all ages, sexes, and races can and do have arthritis, and it is the leading cause of disability in America. More than 50 million adults and 300,000 children have some type of arthritis, according to the National Arthritis Foundation.
Treatment of the painful joint and tissue disease usually centers on a healthy diet, weight, and lifestyle, supplemented by a stable of pills and steroid shots for pain.
New therapies do offer some hope, according to the NAF:
* Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP). Not covered by most insurers, PRP has shown relief of symptoms for three to six months. The patient’s own platelets are injected into problem areas. Cost: $500 to $2,000.
* Autologous Conditioned Serum. The patient’s blood is supplemented with anti-inflammatory proteins and injected into affected joints for symptom relief. Might slow osteoarthritis damage. Cost: $10,000 a session.
* Stem cells. The hope is that stem cells can cause lost cartilage and tissue to regrow. Some evidence suggests that stem cell therapy improves pain and function in joints. No evidence that stem therapy restores lost cartilage. Not covered by most insurance, the cost for one knee is about $5,000.
* Cartilage transplants. Currently, best for young athletes, cartilage is transplanted from the patient or donated source. Cost: $11,000 to $14,000 for grafts. The cost of lab-grown new cartilage for a graft is about $40,000.
When walking hurts
Maybe you’re just starting a walking routine, or you’re a walking veteran with years of brisk daily walks under your belt. Either way, it’s no fun when aches and pains slow you down or even send you back to the couch. But not all pain is created equal, and while some pains are just inconvenient or uncomfortable, you should know when to call your doctor.
Heel pain is often caused by plantar fasciitis, when the band of tissue that runs from your heel to the ball of your foot is strained, according to Prevention. Pain in your heel or arch first thing in the morning is a common sign. Stretching and supportive shoes are a must, or you can try cold packs or shoe inserts, according to the Harvard Health Letter. Call your doctor if the condition persists.
Calf pain that primarily shows up on one or both sides of the lower calf may be due to spinal stenosis, a condition in which a narrowed spinal canal results in compressed nerves. According to the Harvard Health Letter, symptoms often worsen during the day, so you may choose morning walks instead of evening walks. If you experience pain while walking, take breaks until the pain subsides.
Knee pain that feels like a throbbing in front of the kneecap is often a simple case of runner’s knee, according to Prevention. Try another type of exercise, like cycling or swimming, for a few weeks until the pain subsides. You might also consider some exercises to strengthen your quads and help support your knee for future activity.
Pain throughout the leg that occurs every time you start an activity and stops when you finish could be a sign of peripheral arterial disease or PAD. According to Duke Health, PAD occurs when major blood vessels that supply blood to limbs become fully or partially blocked by fatty deposits.
If you’re obese, a smoker, diabetic, or have high blood pressure or high cholesterol, you may be at increased risk for PAD. If you have leg pain that starts and stops with activity, contact your doctor. A variety of treatments are available, and the earlier the condition is treated, the better.
Don’t kiss chickens
We’re a nation of animal lovers – according to Spots, about 67 percent of American households own at least one kind of pet.
Not only do we love animals, but we also love them more than we used to: In a 2016 survey, researchers found that Americans feel significantly more positive about all kinds of animals than they used to – even the less cuddly ones like bats and sharks.
It’s no surprise that we love our chickens, too – so much that federal health officials have issued a stern warning: Stop hugging and kissing ducks and chickens, or risk illness.
According to the New York Times, the warning is due to a salmonella outbreak linked to backyard poultry, with 163 illnesses and 34 hospitalizations in 43 states.
Keeping poultry at home in a backyard coop is fine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but owners should wash hands for 20 seconds after contact with birds and related supplies and not allow small children to touch them.
While stories abound about people who have a chicken as a pet, those who have owned chickens as a hobby may not be inclined to kiss them anyway. “They can be jerks,” said one coop owner.
Body positivity: comfort and confidence without a diet
If you’re fed up with following diets in an attempt to change your appearance, consider how freeing it would be to simply embrace your body the way it is. This is what body positivity is all about. Understanding that worthiness isn’t tied to physical appearance is at the heart of this increasingly popular movement.
The body positivity movement invites people to challenge and reject the unrealistic beauty standards imposed on them by society. It encourages everyone to embrace the size and shape of their body, rather than try to change their appearance through dieting and other unhealthy means. In essence, this movement is about accepting and loving your body. It also serves as a reminder that all body types are beautiful.
Learning to love yourself
Being happy with the body you have isn’t something that comes naturally to everyone. In fact, many people struggle to accept certain aspects of their appearance. Fortunately, there are a variety of ways you can learn to love your body regardless of your height, weight, and other physical traits.
One approach is to look at yourself in the mirror. As you do, start by making a list of all the things you like about your appearance, such as your smile or your hair. Next, direct this positive attitude toward features you like less. For example, remind yourself that regardless of the shape of your legs, they’re what allow you to dance with friends or run around with your kids.
Just remember that when it comes to your body, the important thing is to prioritize your health and well-being, and avoid comparing yourself to others.
The body positivity movement has gained so much momentum that an increasing number of companies are incorporating these messages into their advertising campaigns.
Not all diets best for heart-healthy weight loss
Even though weight loss comes down to a simple formula — eat fewer calories than you burn — dieters should exercise caution when choosing how to eat. Not all diets are created equal when it comes to protecting or improving heart health.
According to the Harvard Heart Letter, all older adults should pay attention to their heart health, and for people who want to lose weight, low-carb diets may not be the best choice. Dieters who stick to a ketogenic or Atkins-style diet tend to eat lots of red meat and high-fat, high-salt processed meats, like bacon — not exactly heart-healthy choices. But low-carbohydrate diets aren’t completely off-limits — for dieters who prefer to avoid carbohydrates, doctors recommend choosing unprocessed or minimally processed foods and high-quality fats, such as those found in nuts.
But in general, experts caution, dieters should think twice about any diet that restricts a specific category of food, such as carbohydrates or fats because they are less sustainable for people who want to lose weight and keep it off. Instead of restrictive diets that eliminate entire food groups, experts urge dieters to eat a variety of heart-healthy foods.
According to the American Heart Association (AHA), a variety of whole fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, skinless poultry and fish, nuts and legumes and non-tropical vegetable oils (such as olive oil) are all good choices for heart health. In addition, the AHA recommends that dieters limit saturated fats (such as butter), trans fats, sodium, red meat, sweets, and sugary drinks.
Swollen legs? Move more often in hot weather
In hot weather, if you get some puffiness around the ankles or an unpleasant tautness in your calves, it is because heat causes the blood vessels to expand (dilate), so body fluid moves into the hands or legs by gravity.
That is the official explanation from the University of Michigan.
Normally, your body maintains the right amount of fluid in tissues by performing a delicate balancing act. You drink fluid and get rid of it when you breathe, sweat or urinate. But sometimes not enough fluid leaves your tissues, and the result can range from a little puffiness to swelling.
These are the most common causes:
* Immobility. When you walk, run or move about, leg muscles contract, promoting blood flow. If you stand still, or sit still as you do in a long airline flight, blood can pool in your veins. This makes it difficult for fluid to move from body tissues back into vessels.
When your work keeps you standing or sitting in one spot during the day, use your legs whenever possible. Shift your weight from one foot to another. Take opportunities to walkabout.
* Salty foods. When you take in more salt than your body needs, the body dilutes it by retaining fluids and making you thirstier.
* Medications. Some commonly used drugs such as steroids, blood pressure medications, antidepressants, hormone replacement medications, and anti-inflammatory drugs can affect how quickly fluid leaves your vessels.
* Menstruation and pregnancy. Hormone levels can affect the rate at which fluid enters the tissues.
Reduce swelling by elevating feet, wearing compression socks, drinking more water, and moving around more. Swimming can be helpful.
Doctors at the Mayo Clinic say you should see your doctor promptly if your leg swelling is sudden, painful, persistent, in one leg, or accompanied by shortness of breath, weight gain, or redness.
The anti-diet movement and intuitive eating: putting an end to the glorification of thinness
The anti-diet movement and intuitive eating are increasingly publicized approaches to health and well-being. Is it possible to take care of yourself without trying to lose weight or control your behavior to keep it off? The possibility certainly grabs people’s attention. I invite you to read my reflection on the matter based on scientific literature as well as my 10 years of experience as a dietitian, my certification in intuitive eating, and the numerous experiences of my clients.
“An epidemic of disconnect” is how dietitians Marci Evans and Fiona Sutherland describe the current situation. Many people feel disconnected from and distrustful of their own bodies. Indeed, children as young as three years old start to assimilate the belief that being thin is better than being fat. It’s no wonder that by the age of nine, one-third of girls have already tried to lose weight, according to government data.
When we acknowledge that between 92 and 98 percent of diets fail within two to five years and that as many as two-thirds of people regain more weight than they lost (according to studies by Tomiyama), it’s not surprising that we see so many people caught in a vicious cycle of dieting. What’s more, diet culture blames the individual for failure. This leads to the perception that people who diet lack the willpower and motivation to lose weight when really, it’s the model itself that doesn’t work.
The concept of intuitive eating proposed by American dietitians Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, which exemplifies the anti-diet movement, involves the radical act of taking care of yourself with compassion, respect, and kindness.
It consists of:
• Making peace with food and rediscovering the joys of eating
• Reconnecting with your body to honor your physiological, emotional, psychological, relational, and spiritual needs
• Learning to respect your body and take care of your health in accordance with your values
• Realizing the impact of diet culture and systems of oppression on your overall well-being
Diet culture — which glorifies thinness, stigmatizes fatness, and demonizes certain foods in favor of others — is insidious. It appropriates the inclusive and benevolent language of intuitive eating to present itself in a better light. You’re then proposed “anti-diet” methods for how to lose weight — what a contradiction! These include:
• “Only eat when you’re hungry, and stop as soon as you feel full.”
• “Lose weight by slowly savoring your food with complete awareness and enjoyment of the experience.”
Do you feel influenced by an all-or-nothing mentality? Of success or failure as the only options? Eating with kindness isn’t about imposing rules on yourself. It’s about listening to your wants and needs and honoring them as much as possible.
There’s no right or wrong way to do this. It’s a journey that’s as unique as you are, and it deserves attention, time, and compassion.
If you need professional guidance along the way, don’t hesitate to reach out to a certified dietitian in your area.
Written by Marilou Morin, professional dietitian, and certified intuitive eating counselor