Don’t take the arthritis meds that lead to heart attack

Arthritis is so common, it’s a safe bet you may have heard conversation with a friend about it recently. Or maybe you know first-hand how this crippling pain can make even the simplest of tasks difficult.

But if you have heart problems or high blood pressure — as more than half of arthritis sufferers do — you may find it’s even harder to get safe relief… at least from your doctor.

That’s because long-term use of NSAIDs — a common group of medications used to ease the swelling and pain of arthritis — have been linked in several studies to an increased danger of heart attack, stroke, heart failure and death from cardiovascular disease.

Now if you only take them occasionally you probably don’t need to worry. But if you find you’re reaching for these medications daily — it’s time to consider safer, natural options…

Supplement sunshine

Vitamin D may help lessen the disability and pain of osteoarthritis, especially if you live in the northern hemisphere or have darker skin — because you may not get enough. The sunshine vitamin promotes the absorption of calcium and phosphorus and may help improve physical function in patients with arthritis. And if you’re one of the many arthritis sufferers with heart problems, adequate levels of vitamin D are especially important… a vitamin D deficiency can cause increased rates of high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol and peripheral blood vessel disease.

Combat inflammation

The belief that arthritis results from wear and tear is only partially true; inflammation is also a contributing factor. Avoid foods that promote inflammation including refined carbohydrates, fried foods, sodas, and red meat. Instead, load up on foods that douse inflammation, such as tomatoes, olive oil, green leafy vegetables, nuts, fatty fish, and fruits (especially tart cherry juice) to give yourself a jump on prevention.

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Choose flexible footwear

Studies show that clogs and stability shoes increase the load on the knees. Walking shoes and even flip-flops allow a natural foot motion similar to walking barefoot, which is better for knees. Flat, flexible shoes provide the greatest benefit for limiting the progression of knee osteoarthritis.

Be good to your joints

It doesn’t seem fair, but the same exercises that build muscle and increase cardiovascular strength can also overwork joints, wear down cartilage, and contribute to osteoarthritis later in life. So it pays to choose how you exercise…

Avoid those with jumping or twisting motions. Yoga and Tai Chi are excellent slow movement exercises (shown to increase functional movement and decrease pain and depression) that help keep muscles flexible and strong while also being easy on your joints.

When you walk or run, avoid hard surfaces like city streets. Also, skip high-impact sports such as basketball, volleyball, or soccer since these increase risk for injury-induced arthritis. High-impact workouts including kickboxing, jumping rope, or step aerobics can cause bits of bone or cartilage to break off and float within the joint.

Maintain a healthy weight

Excessive weight dramatically multiplies the pounds of pressure and loading forces on knees, increasing the risk of arthritis. Even more, having weak hip or quadriceps muscles can shift joints out of place resulting in impaired ability of cartilage to absorb shocks — and the development of arthritis in any joint, but especially knees.

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Arthritis Foundation,
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,
Kristin Baker, PhD, Boston University School of Medicine, Clinical Epidemiology Research and Training
Mark D. Miller, MD, Associate Professor of Orthopedic Surgery, University of Virginia Health System
Beverly Burmeier

By Beverly Burmeier

Beverly Burmeier is a Texas-based writer who writes on health topics for Energy Times and Costco Connection. She stays fit playing tennis and golf as often as possible.