The short answer is no. Right now, there’s no intervention that can prevent rheumatoid arthritis (RA). This is because no one knows exactly why some people develop it. The disease seems to have several triggers. But if you arm yourself with the knowledge of what can trigger it, then you can hopefully work toward avoiding it or manage the symptoms better.
What is RA?
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease where the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks the joints. It causes swelling, stiffness and pain in the joints. The stiffness is usually felt more in the mornings. Over time, the inflammation may destroy joint tissues, which can limit your daily activities.
The Risk Factors
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the main risk factors are:
Age - Chances of developing the disease increase with age, and most new cases are diagnosed in adults in their 60s.
Gender - RA is about three times more common in women than in men.
Genetics - Chances of developing RA increase if a parent or sibling has been diagnosed with it.
Smoking - Cigarette smoking increases a person's risk of developing RA and can make the disease worse.
Childbearing history - Women who have never given birth may have a greater chance of developing RA than women who have given birth.
Obesity - Obesity can increase the risk of developing RA. The more overweight a person is, the higher the risk.
If you have some of these risk factors, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll develop RA. Actually, many people with RA don’t have any of these factors. Also, there’s evidence that certain viruses and bacteria may trigger the disease in some people. As you can see, RA is a very tricky disease.
What can you do to try to avoid RA or relieve symptoms if you have it?
First, if you’ve been diagnosed with RA, it’s best to follow your doctor’s advice and take any prescribed medications as directed.
If you think you might be at risk or have symptoms of RA, here are some things to try that may help you.
Healthy eating habits
According to a study by the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine, a low-protein Mediterranean-type diet has been shown to decrease the risk of developing RA and can lessen symptoms if you have the disease. This type of dietincludes plenty of vegetables, fruits and fats containing omega-3 fatty acids. Also, cutting back on sugar will help, since a diet high in sugar increases inflammation.
Stretching, walking, swimming, and activities like yoga and tai chi are ideal activities to help increase flexibility and improve movement. Exercise not only helps to relieve physical pain but also can relieve emotional stress.
According to the CDC, smoking greatly increases your risk for RA. Smoking can also cause symptoms of RA to advance more quickly.