Joint health may be something that’s not even on your radar – until you hit a certain age. Then, it becomes incredibly important. When you’re younger and your joints are in the optimal condition it’s hard to picture them letting you down one day.
But joint and bone health have a massive impact on a huge section of the aging U.S. population. In fact, osteoarthritis (OA), the most common joint health issue in the world, affects some 30 million American adults.1
Researchers wanted to take a deeper look at the numbers to determine if those with ailing joint health are also battling other conditions like obesity or high blood glucose levels. They also wanted to see if joint or bone health is related to heart health and, ultimately, mortality rates.
The study looked at subjects in two ways –
- Those who self-reported symptoms of joint pain (anywhere in their bodies).
- Those who had joint issues in their knees (backed by X-ray evidence).
The results showed that those with a joint health condition of the knee were associated with a much higher incidence of cardiovascular, kidney, or high blood glucose conditions – all conditions that could potentially lower a person’s life expectancy.2-4
How Does Your Joint Health Impact Your Cardiovascular Health?
Well, the idea that joint health impacts cardiovascular health may be linked to obesity and mobility.
One study showed that the more severe a walking disability from a joint health condition, the higher the risk of mortality. Researchers suggested that patients with such mobility problems should, therefore, address their obesity and/or blood sugar issues, as well as try to boost their physical activity (there are multiple ways to exercise around a joint issue).5
Another study reported the same conclusions, also noting that joint-related walking issues can put patients at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to being able to exercise and, ultimately, take off weight and better control their blood sugar.6
How To Protect Your Heart Health If You’re Battling a Joint Condition
It’s not always possible to protect yourself from a joint condition – it comes with the natural aging process, and it can also be genetic. But you can do your best to protect your cardiovascular health.
- Finding other ways to get enough exercise
- Embracing a healthy lifestyle – ditching bad habits and following a healthy diet
Exercise for Joint and Heart Health
The Arthritis Foundation declares that people struggling with joint issues and bone health can and should exercise. They should focus on exercises that involve increasing your range of motion, endurance, and strength, as follows:
1. Range of Motion
You want to be sure that your joints regularly move through the full range of movement they were designed to achieve. If you have joint health issues, you might not be able to exercise the way you used to, but the important thing is to get moving. Gentle stretching every day can help keep your joints flexible.
Endurance exercise is really the most key to cardiovascular health, as it helps to strengthen your lung and heart health, and it burns calories. This also helps with stamina – giving you more get-up-and-go to face the day ahead. Endurance exercise is also known as “aerobic” exercise. Ideally, you want to aim for 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise per week.
If you can’t walk or jog because of your knees, you’ll want to seek out some low-impact activities, like swimming, riding a stationary bike, or exercising on an elliptical machine.
Strength exercises are for building muscle strength. Strong muscles protect and help take the pressure off of your joints. Just because you can’t perform squats at the gym, it doesn’t mean that you have to give up the gym. Speak to your doctor, or physical therapist, about the best strength exercises for you.
It is estimated that for every pound of body weight you carry around, three pounds of stress are added to your knees. And your hips? That number jumps to six times the stress.7
That’s painful just to think about. And while exercise is incredibly important to help you control your weight, your diet is equally as important.
The American Heart Association recommends a nutrition plan that includes a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, plenty of fish, skinless poultry, nuts and legumes, and healthy fats. You should absolutely limit saturated fats, trans fats, sodium, red meat, and sugary treats and beverages. If you wish to eat red meat, you should choose the leanest cut available.8
Joint and Bone Health: Final Thoughts
You can’t avoid aging, you can’t change your genetics, and you certainly can’t avoid the wear and tear of decades of joint use. But you can seek to stop your joint and bone health from impacting your heart health. And, being that the heart is responsible for every single breath that you take, it certainly seems worth it!