Your knees bear a lot of weight as well as a large responsibility for your ability to effectively get around. They also contain a lot of moving parts, from ligaments and cartilage to muscles and bones, that can become damaged either from injury or the natural wear and tear of age, making it difficult to stay active and enjoy everything life has to offer.
Fortunately, Dr. Struan Coleman is an expert in preventive joint care and offers the following tips to help you protect your knee joints as you age:
1. Eat an anti-inflammatory diet
Inflammation can damage your joints, and your daily diet plays a significant role in the amount of inflammation present in your body. Processed foods, often made with white flour and sugar, are a major culprit when it comes to inflammation. A diet high in meat, dairy, and eggs can also contribute to inflammation.
Try an anti-inflammatory, plant-based diet that features lots of fruits and vegetables, beans, whole grains, some fish, and eight glasses of water a day. Some foods that are particularly anti-inflammatory include onions, garlic, shallots, and leeks.
Research conducted at UCLA has also shown that a small amount of pomegranate juice every day decreases inflammation by 18% and reduces joint pain by more than 60% within three months. Pomegranate juice contains ellagic acid, a natural anti-inflammatory.
2. Try supplements
Your grandmother had the right idea taking cod liver oil. One study found that a 1,000mg capsule of cod liver oil reduced harmful enzymes that damage cartilage in the joints in 86% of the study’s participants. Cartilage is important in preventing your bones from rubbing together, which may eventually create the need for joint replacement.
Several studies show that another supplement, SAM-e (S-adenosylmethionine), can reduce joint inflammation and may also repair cartilage in some cases. Diallyl disulfide, a component of alliums like onions and garlic, may also work to protect joints.
Other natural supplements that you can find in health food stores and some pharmacies include turmeric, tart cherry juice, bromelain (from pineapple) and Boswellia (from trees that grow in Africa and Asia).
3. Maintain a healthy weight
Every time you stand and walk, your weight puts stress on your joints, especially your knees. If you’re overweight or obese, you’re much more likely to damage the cartilage between your joints, resulting in joint pain.
For every excess pound you carry, you put about four extra pounds of pressure on your knee joints. If you’re only 10 pounds overweight, you’re putting 40 pounds of additional pressure on your knees; but if you’re 50 pounds overweight, that’s 200 extra pounds of pressure.
When you think about how much you walk around every day, it’s easy to see why your knee joints are wearing out if you’re overweight. Losing weight can be a significant factor in knee joint preservation.
4. Use targeted exercises to build muscle
Moderate exercise is an excellent way to help protect your knee joints. Building up the muscles around your knees helps reduce the stress on your joints. Your outer, middle, and inner thigh muscles and calf muscles help support your knees.
Your local gym may offer senior exercise classes with instructors who have been specially trained to work with men and women over 50. Water aerobics is also a great way to get non-weight bearing exercise. If you’d rather work out by yourself, check in with a trainer who’s knowledgeable about senior exercise needs.
At your next physical, ask your doctor to check your leg strength. If you’re weak, physical therapy can help strengthen your muscles, and the therapist can show you beneficial exercises for your knees.
5. Wear proper shoes
Did you know that as you age, your foot size may increase? Check your shoes to ensure that they’re not pinching your toes, and make sure you have enough width across the top.
After years of wearing high heels, women may begin to experience knee pain. With your heel in the up position, instead of flat, your quadriceps muscles strain to keep your knees in line. If you wear flat shoes, your knees will thank you. Another tip: Go barefoot in the house and elsewhere when you can. It reduces stress on your knees.
If you’re suffering from knee pain, immobility, or osteoarthritis, call or book an appointment online with Struan Coleman, MD, today.