Man Holding his Knee

Don’t Let Arthritis Control Your Life

If you’ve ever seen an ad for an arthritis drug, it probably featured a middle-aged or older adult grasping their hands or a knee while in the middle of doing some activity like gardening or walking up steps.

This is because arthritis is a common condition affecting 58.5 million adults in the U.S. That’s nearly one-quarter of adults. More than half of those with arthritis (57.3%) are between 18 and 64 years old.

It can be painful and in some cases, even debilitating. But it can be controlled, and people manage to live healthy, active lives with the proper diet, exercise, and medication.

Woman Giving Herself a Hands Massage

Understanding Arthritis

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention define arthritis as the swelling of at least one joint. It can describe more than 100 conditions that affect joints, the tissue around a joint, and other connective tissue. The most common symptoms include joint pain and stiffness.

  • Osteoarthritis — This is the most common form of arthritis, occurring most frequently in the hands, hips, and knees.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis — Also called RA, this is an autoimmune disease. Your immune system attacks healthy cells by mistake.
  • Gout — This is a form of arthritis caused by a buildup of uric acid in the joints. It can be extremely painful.
  • Fibromyalgia — This causes pain all over the body. It can also lead to sleep problems, fatigue, mental, and emotional distress.
  • Lupus — This is another autoimmune disease affecting numerous parts of the body because the immune system can’t tell the difference between healthy tissue or bacteria and viruses.
Mother and Daughter Doing Exercise

Living with Arthritis

You play an important role in managing your life with arthritis. One way is by learning all you can following diagnosis. It is also important to monitor when and where you feel pain. This will help you and your doctor develop a plan. Make sure to alert your doctor if your pain changes.

It is important to:

  • Keep moving — Do gentle stretching each day to take your joints through their full range of motion. 
  • Use good posture — Work with a physical therapist to learn how to sit, stand, and move correctly.
  • Know your limits — Don’t overwork yourself.
  • Manage your weight — Small, permanent changes and lead to gradual weight loss, which is important. Excess weight can cause added joint pain and complications.
  • Quit smoking — It stresses connective tissues which can cause arthritis pain.
Man Swimming

Choose the Right Activities

Movement is important to improving function, mood, and quality of life. At least 30 minutes of moderately-intense exercise a day is a good goal. However, you want to watch what you do. Walking, biking, and swimming are good activities as they don’t put increased stress on your joints.

There are some activities that you should avoid. They include:

  • Running
  • Jumping rope
  • Tennis
  • High-impact aerobics

Stay away from any activity that involves stressful, repetitive motions.

Woman with Neck Pain

Don’t Get Discouraged

Feeling pain doing activities that you used to do on a regular basis can be discouraging. It is important not to let those feelings overwhelm you or lead to hopeless thoughts. That will make your pain worse.

Steps you can take include:

  • Relaxation therapy — Meditation, deep breathing, listening to music, or journaling are just some of the things you can do to help you relax and ease the pain.
  • Hot and cold therapy — Using heating pads, taking hot baths, or hot showers can help relieve pain temporarily. Don’t use heating pads more than 20 minutes at a time to avoid burning yourself. Ice packs can also relieve pain and inflammation.
  • Massage therapy — This can help to ease pain and stiffness temporarily. Make sure the therapist knows where arthritis affects you.
  • Talk therapy — Combined with behavior modification, this can help to identify and break self-defeating thoughts and activities.
  • Acupuncture — Some people find relief through treatment with a trained acupuncturist. It may take several weeks, however, before you notice improvement.

Find Help at AltaMed

If you have pain that you think may be arthritis, talk to your doctor sooner rather than later. If you catch it in the early stages, your doctor can suggest some simple lifestyle changes that can keep you moving and feeling healthy for years to come. If you don’t already have a doctor, find your nearest AltaMed location and give them a call.

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Health aging

Healthy Aging: What’s Normal Versus What You Should Worry About

As the saying goes: growing old isn’t for the faint of heart! It takes a lot of work to make it through 50 or 60 years in this world. But the good news is if you take care of yourself, your golden years can be healthy, happy, and active.

However, there’s no denying your body changes with age. Some of it’s expected: our hair gets a little grayer (or falls out), our skin becomes more saggy, we don’t move quite as fast as we used to, and we may even have to work harder to remember things.

It’s all normal…or is it?

We’re here with an honest discussion of issues around aging, including what you can expect, what’s normal, and what’s a cause of concern.

Trouble Holding Your Urine

Nurse Holding Seniors Hand

The Problem: You know what we’re talking about: you sneeze or laugh hard, and you feel like you’re leaking. Or, suddenly, you REALLY HAVE TO GO and release a few drops before you can get to the bathroom.

What’s Happening: As we age, the muscles in and around our bladder may get weak, making it harder to hold our urine. Combine that with some normal bladder shrinkage, and you may experience the sensation of having to go quite often.

What You Can Do About It: Talk to your doctor. They may recommend exercises or physical therapy to help you regain strength and control.

What’s Not Normal: If you suddenly start losing control of your bladder or bowels, contact your doctor immediately.

You Gain Weight More Easily

Senior Couple

The Problem: When you were young, you could eat pizza, hamburgers, and ice cream and not gain a pound. But now that you’re past 55, it seems like you just look at a donut and gain weight.

What’s Happening: Many people slow down in two ways when they age: they stop exercising or moving as much. And a slowing metabolism, or the rate at which we burn our food for fuel, can also contribute to weight gain.

What You Can Do About It: These are great reasons to get active and stay active – even as few as 30 minutes of regular cardiovascular exercise a day can help boost your metabolism and keep you mobile, strong, and protect your bones.

What’s Not Normal: A rapid or sudden weight gain could be a symptom of a much larger problem, so you should see your doctor ASAP.

Your Memory isn’t What It Used to Be

Happy Senior Couple

The Problem: You run into the neighbor you’ve known for years at the grocery store…Ana? Amy? Michelle? You find yourself forgetting not only names but common words and occasionally what you’re doing.

What’s Happening: Beginning in middle age, your brain’s anatomy and chemistry start to change. Certain parts of your brain may be slowing down, shrinking, or becoming worn. These things can affect your ability to learn new information or retrieve information and memories (which is why you forgot your neighbor’s name).

What You Can Do About It: Exercise helps protect your brain at every age. There are many other healthy steps you can take to keep your brain sharp, such as maintaining strong social connections and learning new things

What’s Not Normal: If you start using the wrong words – for example, every time you want to say the word “computer” you say “blueberry” instead, you start becoming confused during everyday activities, or you’re experiencing personality changes – it’s time to see your doctor.

Your Body Feels Achy and Creaky

Exercise for Seniors

The Problem: When you do something physical, you pay for it the next day with aches and pains in your back, your knees, and everywhere else. And some days, even getting out of bed is a challenge!

What’s Happening: The cushioning that protects your joints can dry out and the tissues that hold your muscles and bones together stiffen. As you age, you’re also more likely to develop arthritis.

What You Can Do About It: Most normal, age-related aches and pains can be managed with over-the-counter pain relievers or aids like heating pads or ice compresses. If you’re overweight, losing a few pounds can also take some of the pressure off your body.

When to Worry: If you still don’t get relief from pain relievers and rest. Or if you have pain that’s accompanied by weakness, fever, or strange sensations in that part of the body.

Your Vision is No Longer Sharp

Senior Person Smiling

The Problem: You put your glasses on to read something…then take them off again because they must not be working! At least, that’s what you hope even though you’re having trouble seeing far-away things, too.

What’s Happening: Your eyes can change with age. The lens inside the eye loses its ability to change shape, which is why it’s so difficult to focus. As we age, we are more likely to develop conditions like glaucoma, macular degeneration, dry eyes, and loss of peripheral vision. All of these things can affect our vision.

What You Can Do About It: Start protecting your eyes now! If you have diabetes, you may need more frequent retinal exams, as well.

When It’s Not Normal: Go to the doctor immediately if you start experiencing “floaters” or flashing lights, which could be symptoms of retinal detachment. You should also see your doctor if you suddenly experience dramatic vision changes.

AltaMed Can Help You Grow Healthy at Every Age

Senior in Medical Checkup

Receiving the right care is important for maintaining and even improving your health as you age, and we’re here for you. Stay proactive with age-appropriate screenings and routine checkups. In addition to complete primary and specialty care services, we also have a program called AltaMed PACE for independent seniors with complex medical needs. No matter your age, we can help you grow healthy for life.

Arm with rash

Is the Skin You’re in Painful? It Could be Psoriasis.

When you think of your organs, the liver, heart, or lungs come to mind… but did you know that your skin is an organ, too? The largest organ of the human body, your skin shields you from germs, regulates your inner temperature, and protects your muscles and bones.

But unlike your heart and lungs, the skin is on the outside of your body – it’s something everyone sees, including you. If you have the skin condition psoriasis, the skin you’re in can often disrupt your entire life.

August is Psoriasis Awareness Month. If you or someone you know struggles with psoriasis, it’s a good time to learn more about it, including how to manage your triggers and get relief.

What is Psoriasis?

Woman Scratching Her Arm

Psoriasis is an autoimmune condition that makes the skin flaky and inflamed, and in more extreme cases, can cause discolored, patchy scaly, skin. Psoriasis can appear anywhere on the body and usually creates a burning sensation, sting, or intense itching. Basically, your skin goes into overdrive producing new cells, which then build up on the surface of your skin. These extra cells are what give your skin a raised look or scaly texture. Psoriasis itself isn’t an infection, and it’s not possible to “catch” it from someone who has it.

While much is known about the condition, doctors still aren’t 100% sure of what causes it. It’s a combination of genetics, or inherited risks, and triggers. Psoriasis is most common among people between the ages of 18 and 35, but it can happen at any stage of life.

There are seven different kinds of psoriasis (more on that below), each with its own symptoms and effects. Besides affecting your skin, psoriasis has been linked to serious, long-term conditions that include cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, and psychological issues.

Common Psoriasis Triggers

Cigarette Butts on Ashtrays

Even though psoriasis is caused by your genes – something you can’t control – there are plenty of lifestyle choices you can control which can help you manage your condition. Working together with a doctor, you can identify which of these factors trigger or worsen your condition:

  • Stress
  • Drinking alcohol
  • Smoking tobacco
  • Hormonal changes during pregnancy, the menstrual cycle, menopause, or puberty
  • Certain medications

The Different Types of Psoriasis

Elbows with Psoriasis

There are seven unique types of psoriasis. In some cases, you may experience more than one of these at a time:

  • Plaque — The most common type of psoriasis causes red or white patches of flaky skin to form anywhere on the body.
  • Guttate — Small, droplet-shaped, sores may appear on the arms, legs, and neck. The second most-common type of psoriasis, it is most common with children and young adults; however, it can happen at any age.
  • Scalp — Scalp psoriasis can appear on your scalp, ears or forehead, and travel down to the back of your neck. It can be very mild, but it can also cause a severe itch and produce crusted sores. In the worst cases, it can lead to skin infections and hair loss.
  • Inverse — Unlike plaque psoriasis, inverse psoriasis has a smooth texture and usually does not produce scaly patches. It is commonly found around the armpits, breasts, genital area, and groin.
  • Pustular — Pustular psoriasis is a less-common type of psoriasis that can cause pus-filled blisters on the hands, feet, and fingertips. It usually only affects adults.
  • Erythrodermic — Erythrodermic psoriasis infects your whole body with a red rash that can burn, itch, and irritate your skin.
  • Nail — Nail psoriasis can appear on your fingernails and toenails. With this type of psoriasis, your nails may turn yellow, brown, or green, and lift away from the nailbed.

You Don’t Have to Suffer

Doctor with a Patient

Many who suffer from psoriasis say that Epsom salts bath can help ease the worst pain. Natural moisturizers can also help lubricate your skin, making you less likely to suffer an outbreak.

Unfortunately, there is no cure for psoriasis, but there are highly effective medications and over-the-counter remedies that can relieve pain, diminish its appearance, and lessen or shorten the outbreak. If psoriasis is causing you pain or getting in the way of performing normal activities, contact your doctor.

Because psoriasis may affect your appearance and your quality of life, it’s quite natural to feel down about it. We have professionals who can help with that, too. Learn more about how to access AltaMed’s behavioral health services.

Don’t Let Arthritis Control Your Life