According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, arthritis cases in the United States are on the rise. It’s estimated that one in five adults suffer from doctor-diagnosed arthritic conditions. Just shy of 50 million Americans live with this painful joint disorder.

Rheumatoid arthritis is a connective tissue disease. It’s an inflammatory reaction in the joint that can gradually invade the tendons. On the other hand, osteoarthritis is a gradual deterioration of the actual articular, or joint surface. A doctor who is well versed in these conditions is Dr. Kenneth Hudspeth, a board certified family practice doctor at the Executive Wellness Center of the Heart Hospital in Austin, Texas.

In an interview with Men and Health: It’s a Guy Thing, Hudspeth says while we are living longer and managing our chronic diseases, “More people are reaching the age where arthritis becomes more prevalent. 80 percent of us are going to get some sort of symptoms (arthritis or joint-related) by the time we’re 75 years-old.” In addition to aging, a lot of us are getting heavier. “We’ve always kind of known that getting bigger was harder on our joints.”

Hudspeth says other factors may be responsible for arthritis and points to the need to reduce  high-impact exercise. He recalls that he and another runner train on country roads, which are much easier on the joints. “When you go to a competitive run, you have to run on concrete or asphalt. Those hard surfaces are really hard on your cartilage, joints, ligaments and tendons. Even in the fitness craze, we tend to use and abuse some joints,” says Hudspeth.

High-impact tools, such as wrenches, nail guns and screwdrivers, can have a negative effect. “Unfortunately, we have to keep moving. You can’t stop exercising and you can’t just quit working. That’s not an option,” notes Hudspeth.

Hudspeth says there are various treatment options for arthritis. “Rheumatoid and some of the other connective-tissue diseases have very specific drug therapies. With osteoarthritis, you’re mainly concerned with any inflammatories, whether they’re oral or topical, and pain relief.”

For the baby boomer, Hudspeth says, “We need to stay active in spite of our disease.” It’s also important to manage our diet.  “Every day is not a special occasion. It’s alright to turn down dessert now and then,” says Hudspeth,  adding that if you pick an exercise, be faithful about it. Find a group, if possible, and exercise regularly. But, “don’t overdo it.”

Statistics show that medical practitioners see a million new arthritis patients every year. By the year 2030, 67 million are expected to suffer from this painful condition. When it comes to arthritis, Hudspeth says, “Treat it, but don’t let it get the best of you.”

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