Osteoarthritis Risk Factors:
- Age - is the number one risk factor for getting osteoarthritis. Research shows that, in younger people, cartilage in joints is stimulated to grow thicker and stronger with use, but with age, that ability is lost. The tendons and muscles that support your joints also weaken with age, which increases wear and tear on the joints over time. Osteoarthritis is rarely diagnosed in people under the age of 40, and is commonly diagnosed in people over the age of 60.
- Sex - if you are female, your chances of getting osteoarthritis are higher. Women are at higher risk for osteoarthritis in all joints, and this increased risk begins at around the age of 60. Researchers suspect this is partly due to the hormonal changes associated with menopause, though this risk factor is not yet completely understood.
- Genes - you are born with are believed to play a significant role in hip and hand osteoarthritis, where heredity is involved in about 50 percent of osteoarthritis cases. Osteoarthritis of the knee is less often inherited, probably less than 30 percent of the time. People who are born with certain types of knee abnormalities, have a very high risk of getting osteoarthritis.
- Researchers are studying biomarkers, substances in the blood of people with osteoarthritis that can be found on a blood test and serve as an early warning sign that the person may develop osteoarthritis. This way, you can work with your doctor to start treating your osteoarthritis at an earlier stage.
- Weight - how much you weigh is the biggest controllable risk factor for osteoarthritis. "Being overweight makes joint pain of all sorts much harder to cope with and may aggravate wear in knee joints," warns Edwards. Carrying too much weight is generally worse for people with knee arthritis than with hip arthritis, and worse for women than for men. Being just 10 pounds overweight will increase the stress on your knees with every step you take. Women who are overweight have four times the risk of osteoarthritis as women who are of normal weight.
- Damage - to the ligaments that support your joints causes the joints to be less protected from stress. A broken bone can change the structure of a joint and lead to abnormal stress. Someone who has already had a joint injury should avoid strain through strenuous exercise, which can further aggravate the problem. Certain diseases can cause joint damage that can increase the risk for osteoarthritis. These include joint infections, gout, rheumatoid arthritis, and Paget's disease.
The bottom line: As with most diseases, prevention and early treatment offer the best chance of success against osteoarthritis. Get your weight down to a normal range through diet and exercises that are right for you.