Preview of Your Coming Attractions

When I retired after 40 years of writing columns for the San Jose Mercury News, I figured I'd said about all I could say. Wrong. I've realized that at age 76, I'm about 10 years older than the oldest baby boomers, who are now turning 66. My very average body has had a lot of experiences in those 10 years. I've learned a lot that could be helpful to people just starting on that same path -- what to do, what to avoid, what to keep an eye on.. Consider me your canary-in-the-coalmine for the boomer generation. Tune in regularly for the heads-up advice.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Hitting the Joints

     Arthritis. What a pain.
     It’s painful literally, unfortunately, just as aging can be a pain figuratively. I never expected to be diagnosed with arthritis, never thought about it for a minute, but now, here it is and I’m stuck with it. The doc diagnosed mine as osteoarthritis, the most common type, and there’s darn little any of us can do to prevent it. Like gray hair (or no hair) it just happens.
     But once you’re stuck with it, there are ways to lessen the symptoms. These include pain, swelling and/or stiffness of the joints. And it turns out the best thing you can do for that is what everybody already has been advising you to do – exercise. Daily activity helps your blood circulation increase, which decreases swelling and stiffness. You don’t have to go the all-out, be-a-jock routine to get this benefit. Something as simple as walking will do the trick. Just don’t stay in one position for any extended length of time. Sitting around complaining because your joints hurt only makes things worse. Try to work through that pain, get in motion, and you should see improvement.
     If you’re really eager, low-impact aerobics and range-of-motion exercises also are good. In addition to walking and climbing stairs regularly, my wife and I also try to use the Wii Fit program on our Nintendo computer gaming console as often as we can. It checks our weight and body-mass index, tests our reflexes and offers a wide range of simple yet effective games to improve balance and flexibility, not to mention burning calories. And all in the privacy of our family room. No gym memberships necessary.
     Also try to eat well – the balanced diet bit, lots of fruits and vegetables, you know the drill. Try to get plenty of sleep, optimally 8-10 hours a night. Your body should tell you how much you need. And go easy on caffeine and nicotine, both of which adversely affect arthritis. Ditto for alcohol, although after you use it, you may not care.
     Researchers tell us that there are more than 100 types of arthritis, most of which involve inflammation of one or more joints. This causes a breakdown of the cartilage that normally protects the joints, allowing them to move smoothly and absorb shock. Lose too much cartilage and bone may rub on bone, causing that pain.
     A little pain, though, is better than not being able to move at all. So move it.

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