knee osteoarthritis

  1. Turning gold into lead

    Living longer doesn't always mean living better--and for too many people, those later years are anything but golden.

    Now, researchers have found a new way to show what's a stake when bellies get big and knees buckle under the weight: lost years, even if you happen to be using them while you're losing them.

    How can that be? Easy: The years aren't lost to death... but to pain and poor health.

    For example, someone with obesity and osteoarthritis in both knees--usually caused by that obesity--might live as long as someone who has neither condition... but lose 3.5 years to chronic pain and misery, according to the study in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

    That's a lot of time lost to pain.

    Someone who is obese but manages to avoid knee osteoarthritis will lose 2.5 years to pain and suffering, while slim people who suffer from knee osteoarthritis will lose about 1.9 years.

    The shame of it is that both conditions are preventable: You can lose weight and keep osteoarthritis at bay by committing to simple lifestyle changes.

    But these aren't tiny, incremental changes--and that's where the new study falls apart, because the researchers insist that just dropping a few pounds can make all the difference in the world.

    They say that losing just 3.74 pounds, for example, would eliminate 178,000 cases of heart disease and 890,000 cases of diabetes.

    Fat chance.

    It's highly unlikely that someone who's 250 pounds will somehow have a better, healthier life than someone who's 253.74 pounds.

    The fact is, if you want to avoid obesity, diabetes, knee osteoarthritis and more, you need to bring your weight under control--and that means doing something far more dramatic than cutting back to an Extra Value Meal every other day instead of five times a week.

    No one likes to be lectured about weight so I'll keep this short and sweet: If you've put on a few too many pounds over the years--and don't feel too bad about it, because you're hardly alone--the best way to make sure you'll reach a ripe, old age and have the power to enjoy those later years is to lose the weight now.

  2. Ancient Chinese secret: Tai-chi linked to osteoarthritis relief

    Tai chi is one of those things that can look awfully funny to outsiders: A group of people, standing in rows, moving slowly and silently as if fighting in a low-speed martial- arts tournament.

    But did you know that those slow, deliberate movements could bring some serious pain relief? Maybe these folks are the ones getting the last laugh… because a new study finds that tai chi can help people cope with knee osteoarthritis.

    Tufts University researchers looked at 40 OA sufferers. Half of them did 60 minutes of tai chi twice a week for 12 weeks. The other half served as a control group – they were given two 60-minute classes twice a week that went over OA information, diet, education and discussions of more traditional therapies.

    In the end, the patients in the tai chi group reported significantly less pain than those who sat through the classes.

    The research is promising and it certainly won't hurt to try. My concern is that tai chi exercises don't appear to do anything to the underlying condition behind knee osteoarthritis, specifically the loss of cartilage in your knees.

    But pain relief is pain relief – and simple exercises are a much better option than painkillers that can destroy your stomach and lead to other problems.

    If you're willing to give tai chi a shot, I'd suggest doing it in concert with something else, like a glucosamine supplement. Many people add chondroitin to this, but I'd suggest seeing if you can get by without it. Some studies have linked chondroitin to prostate cancer, and while the research is early there's no reason to take the chance when so many people get relief without it.

    It's pretty easy to find a tai chi group if you live in a big urban area. Elsewhere, it may be a bit trickier – but you can start by asking the workers at your local park. Since many tai chi groups meet in parks in the morning, the staff here might be able to point you in the right direction.

    You can also try local martial arts schools – even if they don't offer tai chi, they may know someone who does.

    And even if tai chi doesn't deliver on the promise of pain relief, it's still a great way to get outside, get moving and socialize.

  3. Smoking bans pay dividends

    If you want to be healthier, quit smoking. Few people, even many smokers, would deny that at this point.

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