Watch Your Waist for RA Relief

Your weight could keep rheumatoid arthritis symptoms around longer.

Watch Your Waist for RA Relief

What would you do to be free of the aching, stiffness and swelling that come with rheumatoid arthritis? If you're taking medication as part of your RA treatment, you're on the right track. Your next step might be to lace up your sneakers and burn some calories. That's because research shows you may be more likely to get rid of bothersome symptoms if you maintain a healthy body weight.

Why Weight Matters
In a study of about 1,000 people with RA, those who were the heaviest had about a 60% lower chance of achieving remission. Remission is when you're free of joint pain, tenderness, swelling and fatigue. One reason is that being overweight makes RA drugs less effective, according to the researchers. Obesity's link to inflammation could also play a role.

And don't think skinny folks got off any easier: Being underweight lowered their odds of remission by 45%. But the researchers weren't sure why. They plan to have a larger group of underweight people in a future study. The findings were presented at an annual meeting of the American College of Rheumatology.

What Can You Do?
Experts agree that you're more likely to reach remission if you stick to the script. So, work closely with your rheumatologist to develop a comprehensive treatment plan. You might also want to consider the following lifestyle tips:

  • Don't smoke. The study also found that nonsmokers were more likely to stay in remission longer.
  • Eat right. There's no special diet for everyone with RA, but some foods may reduce inflammation and improve symptoms.
  • Stay active. Lots of studies have shown that exercise can help ward off joint swelling. Opt for low-impact activities, like walking, cycling and swimming.

Medically reviewed in April 2020.

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