Living Better, Aging Well – Improve Your Health through Self-Management Education and Physical Activity

October 12, 2013 is World Arthritis Day.  This day, established in 1996 by Arthritis and Rheumatism International, is celebrated annually to raise awareness for the issues affecting people with rheumatic and musculoskeletal diseases (such as rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, and osteoarthritis).  More than 1 in 5 adults in the United States (52.5 million) have arthritis.  Arthritis can have negative effects on a person’s health, especially on day-to-day activities.  With the holidays approaching, conditions like arthritis can really take a toll.  Walking, climbing stairs, preparing for guests, playing with small children, bending to put things in and take out of the oven can be impactful on all of our joints.  For persons with arthritis, they may be limited in their ability to do these things.

For persons who have other chronic health conditions in addition to their arthritis, it can be easy to want to monitor the condition providing the most urgent symptoms or trouble.  In Missouri, and nationally, over half of all adults who have heart disease or diabetes also have arthritis.  55.5% of Missourians with diabetes have arthritis too, and 64.1% of Missourians with heart disease also have arthritis.  For a person who has diabetes and arthritis, it’s easy to pay a lot of attention to your symptoms of diabetes (for example, blood sugar levels) and to write off arthritis pain as “something that is just going to happen”.  You don’t have to think of arthritis pain as a natural occurrence!

Studies have shown that it’s important to take care of all of your conditions.  And, in improving your arthritis symptoms, it may be possible to also improve your diabetes, heart disease, or other chronic conditions(s).  Engaging in physical activity can help to relieve pain associated with arthritis.  This same physical activity could bring you to a healthier weight which can relieve symptoms associated with diabetes or heart disease.  Even just taking the step to increase your physical activity to improve your arthritis can improve your overall health.  By having lessened pain associated with arthritis, your overall mood may improve.  In your mood improving, you may be less likely to reach for sweets, which can assist your blood sugar levels and therefore improve your diabetes symptoms.  Persons who have one or more chronic health condition can find that by addressing one condition, like arthritis, their other conditions will also improve.

Prioritizing self-management education and physical activity programs can be effective in improving levels of pain, function of joints, and quality of life.  These programs can even reduce any daily limitations.  The theme of this year’s World Arthritis Day is “Living Better, Aging Well”.  In Missouri, we offer self-management education and physical activity programs that encourage individuals to take “Steps to Better Health”.  Through its seven Regional Arthritis Centers (RACs), the Missouri Arthritis and Osteoporosis Program (MAOP) offers four self-management education and two physical activity programs locally around the state.

Self-Management Courses:

·         Living a Healthy Life (CDSMP): group format; six-week course; topics include – techniques for managing problems associated with chronic conditions, use of medications, communication with health care providers, nutrition, and setting goals.

·         Tomando Control de su Salud: group format; six-week course; Spanish version of CDSMP; topics include – use of the health care system, healthy eating, communication with health care providers, appropriate exercises, and setting goals.

·        Better Choices, Better Health: online group format; six-week course; online format of in-person Living a Healthy Life class; topics include – nutrition and exercise, intimacy and relationships, better ways to talk to your doctor, and much more.

·         The Arthritis Toolkit: independent format; six-week structure; topics include – self-management of arthritis-specific conditions.

Physical Activity Courses:

·         Arthritis Foundation Exercise Program: group format; six-week or year round course; topics include – range-of-motion, flexibility, strengthening, balance and endurance-building activities.

·         Walk With Ease: group or independent formats; six-week course; topics include – pain management, developing a daily walking routine, and warming up/cooling down.

All courses are offered year-round and are designed for individuals with risk factors for or with chronic health conditions, such as arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure.  Courses meet participants at their personal level – whether newly diagnosed, with a controlled condition, or not yet diagnosed.  Individuals with multiple chronic health conditions may find additional benefit from these courses as they learn how their conditions interact and can impact their overall health.  Self-management courses can also be beneficial for caregivers or family of those with chronic conditions.

For a complete schedule of courses offered and to learn more, click on your region at:  If a course isn’t listed in your area, contact your RAC by calling the toll-free line at 1-888-702-8818 or via the website at to begin a group or get added to a waiting list.  You can also contact your RAC to find out more about becoming a program leader. Find out more about MAOP programs by checking out our Facebook page at   

So, as World Arthritis Day approaches, think about what you can do to live better and age well.  How can you educate yourself and others about your arthritis or the symptoms that affect you?  Consider taking time for yourself before the holidays hit to address one or more chronic health conditions you may have.  You may find that in doing so, you can improve your daily activities as you chase grandkids, decorate your home, cook for friends or family, and walking through a shopping mall or the grocery store.  What will be your first step toward better health?

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