Impact of Obesity on Arthritis

Individuals who are considered overweight and obese are at an increased risk for arthritis.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “excess weight can contribute to both the onset and progression of knee osteoarthritis”.  Obesity is also a risk factor for other health conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure.  Being obese with some of these diseases increases your chances of decreased quality of life, serious health issues, and may even lead to death.

Obesity is defined in terms of the amount of body fat an individual carries. Body mass index (BMI) is calculated by using a formula. According to the BMI table, any adult who has a BMI between 18.5 and 24.9 is considered normal weight status.  Some point out that the BMI is not a good indicator of healthy body weight.  A person may have a high BMI, which indicates a potential health risk; health care providers can perform further assessments to determine if that individual is at a health body weight, regardless of BMI measure.

Maintaining a healthy weight can help protect your joints if you have arthritis or are at risk for arthritis. Obesity is a known (modifiable) risk factor for arthritis, specifically osteoarthritis (CDC).  Being overweight can increase pressure on weight-bearing joints such as hips and knees (Arthritis Foundation and CDC).

In Missouri, 38.3% of adults who were identified as obese also had arthritis (BRFSS 2011). In comparison to national numbers (31.2%), more Missourians who are obese reported having arthritis.  Among those Missourians who were considered overweight or obese, 42.3% were told to lose weight by a doctor (BRFSS 2011). 38.9% of individuals who stated they were physically inactive also had arthritis (BRSS 2011). Being physically active can combat the rate of obesity and the occurrence of arthritis among adults in Missouri and the United States.

Sometimes, when you have a chronic health condition like arthritis, it can be difficult to engage in normal daily activities.  Having more than one chronic health problem (such as arthritis and obesity) can further complicate participation in regular activities.  And, having multiple chronic health conditions can reduce motivation to engage in physical activity.  15.2% of adults in the United States who had both arthritis and obesity indicated limitations in regular activities as a result of their arthritis (CDC). 

One way to combat limits in your usual activities due to arthritis is to participate in self-management education courses.  As mentioned before, for adults who are obese and who have arthritis, physical activity can help to reduce the rate and occurrence of these health problems.  The Missouri Arthritis and Osteoporosis Program (MAOP) and its Regional Arthritis Centers (RACs) offer both self-management and physical activity programs throughout the state of Missouri.  Click here to find a class near you.

As always, there are lots of resources available to persons who have arthritis.  If you specifically struggle with arthritis and obesity, consider taking a look at the CDC Obesity page, CDC Arthritis page, Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) Healthy Living – Obesity page, and the MAOP Self-Management Toolkit page on obesity.  There is also a resource available for individuals who are caregivers of persons with arthritis and obesity.

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