May 3rd, 2021 | Senior Health
May is both National Arthritis Awareness Month and National Stroke Awareness Month. While those may seem unrelated afflictions, they have at least three essential things in common: Anybody can be affected by them; the incidence of both conditions increases with age; and the things you can do to help one condition may also help or prevent the other.
Do You Have Arthritis?
You’re not alone. Far from it. Arthritis is the leading cause of disability in the U.S., with more than 100 types and related conditions. Arthritis does not respect age, sex or race. Curiously, geography may be a factor. Those in rural areas are somewhat more prone to arthritis than urban dwellers, but that’s not to suggest that moving from one to the other would affect your arthritis. The most common symptoms:
- Joint swelling
- Pain in the joints
- Stiffness and diminished range of motion
You may have mild symptoms, and your symptoms may come and go. Progression can be slow or sudden. We consider arthritis severe when chronic pain makes it difficult to perform routine activities, walking, dressing, cooking, and climbing stairs. You may think of arthritis by its visible symptoms: knobby finger joints, for example. But arthritis can be invisible, detected only through X-ray or MRI.
So far, we've talked about the symptoms primarily associated with osteoarthritis. Gout is a type of arthritis often associated with diet and shows up as severe joint pain. Autoimmune types of arthritis are different still, marked by inflammation and can affect the heart, lungs, kidneys, eyes, and skin. Autoimmune is a broad category that includes rheumatoid, psoriatic, spinal, and juvenile variations. Finally, bacteria entering a cut or sore can introduce arthritis of the infectious type.
We have found one of the best sources for arthritis and treatment is "Answers To Your Arthritis Questions," available from the Arthritis Foundation (arthritis.org). The information is worth reviewing if you are concerned about the types, causes, and treatment. What can you do if you have arthritis?
Rely on non-drug therapies as much as possible.
Apply heat and cold treatments to help ease pain and stiffness.
Use braces, canes, and assistive devices to address mobility issues. Consult your doctor before any treatment. A treatment that might be right for one person might not be for another. You don't want to aggravate your condition or dismiss a therapy because you tried it, and it didn't work. Your doctor may also prescribe physical or occupational therapy to increase strength, range of motion and mobility, and help with advice on protecting your joint.
You’ll also want to explore therapies that you can integrate with conventional treatments. Supplements, massage, acupuncture, biofeedback therapy, meditation, and relaxation techniques can help you manage pain and help with depression. Many who never thought a holistic medicine approach was for them have found these therapies complement their conventional treatment, if not replacing it.
Tell Your Arthritis to Take a Walk
Walking is proven to improve arthritis pain, fatigue, function, and quality of life. What better time to start or recommit yourself to a walking routine than the spring? Walking is an excellent way for people with arthritis who live in rural areas to be physically active. For those uncertain about walking, proven programs such as Walk with Ease can help people get started.
The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, found on Health.gov, recommends all adults (including adults with arthritis) get two and a half hours (150 minutes) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week. Activities may include brisk walking per week. Also, include muscle-strengthening exercises two or more days a week.
Exercise and activity are one area where arthritis treatment and stroke prevention cross paths. Most doctors recommend a generally healthy lifestyle and physical activity for both. Walking serves the purpose very well, so your walking routine is doing double-duty to prevent stroke. Quitting smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, eating healthfully, getting enough sleep, and limiting stress also can help control inflammation, protect joints and contribute to overall health. These healthy habits may also prevent strokes. So, let's talk about stroke – especially if you think it doesn’t apply to you.
80% of Strokes Are Preventable
It’s a tragedy – an avoidable tragedy – that so many people live with or die from the effects of stroke when, according to medical professionals, 80% of strokes are preventable. You can significantly decrease your chances of stroke with simple preventive measures. The first prevention is to know if you're having a stroke. Every second counts:
A Stroke Is an Emergency!
Call 911 immediately if you notice any of these signs. Lost time means greater disability:
- There is sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of the body.
- Sudden droopiness in the mouth while trying to smile.
- The sudden change of vision – blurred, blackened, or double-vision in one or both eyes.
- Sudden severe or persistent headache
- Sudden loss of balance or coordination
- Sudden trouble with speaking or understanding speech
What Causes a Stroke and What Can I Do About It?
Strokes happen when oxygen-rich arteries supplying the brain are constricted or obstructed, as by a blood clot.
The closing or clogging of the arteries to the brain is directly related to the arteries' health, which is affected by how you eat, how much you eat, your physical activity, blood pressure, whether you smoke, and whether you have diabetes among other factors. Those are factors mainly under your control. You can't control your age, gender, race, and family history, all of which can play a part in your stroke profile. So, let's focus on the things you can change.
The Stroke Recovery Foundation offers “11 Pillars of Stroke Prevention,” all easily achieved goals and routines that everyone should attend to daily.
- Have an annual physical exam and talk with your physician about any medical issues you may be having.
- Take control of your blood pressure! There are now new, more stringent guidelines to be considered.
- Eat less - everything you eat contains calories.
- Exercise and increase your day-to-day physical movement.
- Stop smoking – stop.
- Lose weight – every pound counts.
- Drink in moderation! Consider red wine.
- Carotid artery screening may be appropriate. See your doctor.
- Control your diabetes if that is an issue.
- Attend to atrial fibrillation should you have it.
- Take your prescription medications and manage your supplements.
Second Strokes Can Be Prevented
Because stroke is a leading disabler among diseases, you may have already had a stroke or strokes if you're an older adult reading this. If so, you're familiar with all the above, all of which still apply to you. One of the best sources of information on strokes, The American Stroke Association (StrokeAssociation.org), a division of the American Heart Association, provides a checklist of eight simple items to prevent a second stroke:
- Monitor your blood pressure.
- Control your cholesterol.
- Keep your blood sugar down.
- Get active.
- Eat better.
- Lose weight if you need to.
- Don’t smoke, period.
- Talk to your doctor about aspirin or other medications. (Aspirin is not appropriate for everyone, so be sure to talk to your doctor before you begin an aspirin regimen.)
Know Your Numbers!
Have all your vital signs and health numbers recorded at your doctor’s office, along with a complete physical and blood panel. And then monitor your numbers at home. Daily. Technology and home test kits have made it extremely easy and affordable to monitor your blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol, resting and active heart rate, body mass index (a ratio of weight and height), the number of calories you take in, even the number of steps or miles you walk every day. The only number you need to know for cigarettes is zero.
When you know your numbers, you’ll feel a sense of control over your health that you haven’t felt before. Every day is a snapshot of your health, and this makes it easy to tell if you’re moving in the right direction. Kaiser Permanente provides five essential health numbers: blood pressure, cholesterol, waist size, body mass index, and blood sugar. Visit the site or ask your doctor for the proper range and how to measure them.
Arthritis, Stroke and the Benefits of Senior Living
Eventually, the balance of your attention will shift from your house, job, and all the business of daily life to your health and the years you'll spend as an aging adult. This article has been a relatively lengthy discussion of just two of the health factors you need to be aware of, and we’ve barely scratched the surface on those. It’s a lot to pay attention to, along with your everyday busy life. It's easy to say, "Well, just stay healthy, and you won't have to worry about it." But it's more realistic to say that all of this works better when people with similar health goals surround you.
Eating healthy, monitoring your health numbers, and staying active are all parts of any senior living residence worthy of your consideration. Experts in Senior Living™, such as our Legend and Windsor Associates, are well-trained in nutrition, exercise, and socialization, with a mission to serve the whole person, mentally, physically, and spiritually. Here, you'll be in the supportive company of friends and associates. Your awareness level for your health will be top of mind, and all the help you need to reach your goals will be right at hand.