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How to lower your risk factors for arthritis

Incorporate these healthy habits into your life as soon as you can.

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First things first: Some factors that raise your risk for osteoarthritis are outside your control, like if you're born female or you have a family history of arthritis. But that doesn't mean you are powerless.

Plenty of arthritis risk factors are modifiable—meaning, if you can change certain behaviors, then you can reduce your chances of developing this degenerative joint disease that causes pain and stiffness. Follow these steps.

Keep Blood Sugar in Check

A study has shown that diabetes may be linked to osteoarthritis (or may be associated with OA). How come? The study suggests that high blood glucose levels may cause cartilage breakdown and lead to symptoms of joint pain and stiffness. So, first things first: If you haven't gotten a physical from your primary care physician in the last year, schedule one right away and make sure that your blood sugar is tested. (Hint: You'll need to fast for a certain amount of time before the blood sugar test, so you may want to make an early-morning appointment.) If your blood sugar is higher than it should be, exercising, eating nutritious foods, and drinking alcohol in moderation can help you lower it.

Drop Some Pounds

When you carry extra weight, it puts additional stress on your weight-bearing joints, like your knees and your hips. That extra pressure breaks down the cartilage that acts as a cushion between joints. Fat tissue also makes some harmful proteins called cytokines that can promote inflammation all over the body and wreak havoc on your cartilage cells. In fact, research shows that for every 11 pounds you gain, your risk for knee osteoarthritis increases by 36%. Limiting your calorie intake and doing at least 30 minutes of moderately intense exercise at least five days a week may help you whittle that waistline.

Prevent Injuries

An injured joint is more likely to develop arthritis, science shows, because cartilage doesn't heal well. Accidents happen, but some injuries can be avoided. For instance, to help prevent overuse injuries, try not to do too much too soon when exercising. It's not wise to go from running, say, one day a week at a slow pace to suddenly running every day at a fast pace. Gradually increase your intensity, and don't forget to replace your sneakers regularly.