Rheumatoid Arthritis Foundation, Help Fight RA

7 Reasons to Lose Weight When You Have RA

Posted by: RA Foundation Tags: | Categories: medical, news, research



Break the cycle of obesity and Rheumatoid Arthritis pain with a practical diet and fitness program.

These seven benefits will convince you to start today.

Just as being overweight is linked to increased Rheumatoid Arthritis pain, weight loss may help improve RA symptoms.

Obesity affects Rheumatoid Arthritis for two reasons: First, the excess load on your joints can cause pain and discomfort. “But also, maybe even more importantly, a number of inflammatory mediators produced in fat affect joint tissues and play a role in pain,” says rheumatologist Richard F. Loeser, Jr., MD, a director of basic and translational research at the Thurston Arthritis Research Center at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine in Chapel Hill.

Take a look at the following seven benefits of weight loss for Rheumatoid Arthritis, and you might just find the motivation you need to shed pounds, too.

1. A reduction in pain. Less body weight often equals less pain. Adults with Rheumatoid Arthritis who lost weight through a combination of diet and exercise over a period of 18 months reported less knee pain, notes a study in the September 2013 Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). The researchers, led by Dr. Loeser, found that dropping just 10 percent of your body weight makes a difference. “The people who had the most improvement in pain and function were the ones who followed both a diet and exercise program,” Loeser points out.

2. Better joint function. Weight loss also appears to improve joint function. In his JAMA study, Loeser found that mechanical pressures inside the knee joint improved with weight loss. Although the best results came when both exercise and diet were involved, just losing weight significantly improved knee function. He emphasizes that reducing calorie and fat intake is essential if you’re overweight and have Rheumatoid Arthritis. Aim for losing a pound a week, but give yourself time — six months is a reasonable time frame to see big changes, he says. Most importantly, for continued relief you have to make a lifelong commitment to change your lifestyle.

3. Feeling better overall. After losing weight through diet and exercise, study participants also reported improved physical quality of life that went beyond the specific joints causing pain. Loeser explains that you don’t have to follow the exact exercise plan of this study, which involved a combination of aerobics and weight training for one hour three times a week. Rather, you can spread out an equivalent amount of exercise throughout the week. Consider working with a trainer or joining a group fitness program to get a level of supervision similar to that of the exercise and arthritis study participants.

4. Less inflammation. When you’re overweight and have Rheumatoid Arthritis, signs of inflammation course throughout your body, which creates chemical markers that researchers can track to measure how much system-wide inflammation you have. One of these markers is interleukin-6 (IL-6). Loeser and his fellow researchers were able to see that IL-6 levels went down over the course of the participants’ 18 months of exercise and weight loss. Leptin is another potentially inflammatory factor researchers are closely examining.

“I would also suggest reducing the intake of omega-6 fatty acids and increasing omega-3s,” says Richard M. Aspden, PhD, a musculoskeletal inflammation researcher and professor of orthopedic science at the University of Aberdeen in Foresterhill, Scotland. Omega-3s are found in foods like fatty fish, olive oil, and walnuts; omega-6s are found in meat and oils such as safflower or corn oil. Both are necessary for a healthy diet, but the average American consumes too many omega-6s in relation to omega-3s, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center.

5. Better heart health. Researchers are digging into the links between Rheumatoid Arthritis, weight, and metabolic syndrome, which include heart disease risk factors, according to Tim Griffin, PhD, a researcher with the Free Radical Biology and Aging Program at the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation in Oklahoma City.

For instance, painful Rheumatoid Arthritis in hands is linked to heart disease events such as heart attack, according to data from the Framingham Heart Study published in the Annals of Rheumatic Disease in September 2013. Weight management is generally recommended not just for controlling Rheumatoid Arthritis, but also to maintain good heart health.

6. A good night’s sleep. Musculoskeletal pain interferes with sleep and seems to lead to insomnia over the years, reported researchers in the August 2014 journal Rheumatology. Weight loss, though, can lead to better sleep.

“Once patients engage in a healthy exercise program, that would help improve their sleep pattern,” points out rheumatologist Dennis C. Ang, MD, associate professor of medicine and chief of the section of rheumatology and immunology at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

7. Cost savings. Rheumatoid Arthritis can be a costly disease. Including treatment expenses and earnings lost because of the condition. Individually, that can place a significant burden on people with RA who are faced with increasing medication costs and, possibly, declining incomes. But Dr. Ang points out that, because weight loss can lead to improved function and less pain, it could yield pocketbook benefits once fewer medications are needed.

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