Arthritis - osteoarthritis
In the U.S., osteoarthritis affects about 27 million Americans age 25 years and older.
Osteoarthritis can affect people of any age, but it is much more common in older people. It rarely occurs in people younger than age 40.
In people younger than 45, osteoarthritis occurs more frequently in men. After age 45, it develops more often in women. Some research suggests that women may also experience greater muscle and joint pain, in general, than men.
Obesity, defined as being 20% over one's healthy weight, places people (particularly women) at increased risk for osteoarthritis. It also worsens osteoarthritis once deterioration begins. This higher risk is due to increased weight on the joints.
Because injuries can trigger the disease process, people whose work or leisure activities place them at risk for muscle and joint injuries may face a higher risk for osteoarthritis later on.
Workers at Higher Risk. Certain occupations with repeated stressful motions (such as squatting or kneeling with heavy lifting) can contribute to the deterioration of cartilage. People with jobs that require kneeling or squatting for more than an hour a day are at high risk for knee osteoarthritis. Jobs that involve lifting, climbing stairs, or walking also pose some risk.
Exercise. There has been some question about the role of strenuous exercise in osteoarthritis. Sports that definitely pose a higher risk for osteoarthritis have repetitive or direct joint impact (such as football), joint twisting, or both (baseball pitching, soccer). The increase in exercise intensity by young girls, including increased incidence of significant injuries, has raised concerns that we may see an increase in the incidence of future osteoarthritis.
Regular and moderate exercise, however, is important for everyone and does not increase the risk for osteoarthritis. Recreational weight-bearing exercise (walking, jogging), done by middle-aged and elderly people, neither prevents osteoarthritis nor increases risk. Furthermore, many factors associated with a sedentary life (such as muscle weakness and obesity) are associated with a higher risk for osteoarthritis.
Some people are born with anatomical abnormalities, such as mismatched surfaces on the joints, which could be damaged over time. Legs of unequal length or skewed feet can cause jerky movement and may cause osteoarthritis.
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