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Arthritis and Osteoporosis


Is often known as the ‘silent epidemic’, where the bones become brittle and thin giving a hunchback appearance and increasing your chance of fractures.

Osteoporosis is caused by a number of factors….
  • little or no activity, especially weight bearing exercise
  • hormonal changes such as menopause
  • low calcium intake
  • age
  • genetics
  • alcohol, smoking and drinking too much coffee (more than 5 cups per day)
Osteoarthritis also known as the ‘wear and tear disease’

It is the softening, degeneration and inflammation of the joint cartilage which is caused by obesity, your genetic makeup and overuse of joints.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Is the chronic inflammation of the joints caused by a virus, stress and your genetic makeup?

In order to help prevent and manage osteoporosis or arthritis it is important to maintain a healthy body weight by following a healthy balanced diet and being active.

As well as good nutrition it is also important to take your medication given by your doctor. These often have many unwanted side effects which cause you to have a poor appetite. If possible, always try to eat first and then take your medication afterwards.

What is a healthy body weight?

It is not healthy to be underweight (too thin) or overweight (too fat). If you are overweight you have a higher risk of damaging your bones, getting heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure. Many people suffering from arthritis often complain of painful hips, knees and ankles. This is because their bones cannot carry the weight of their body when they try to walk or stand.

Tips for maintaining a healthy body weight…
[blog_inside_ad] 1. Eat a variety of foods everyday

It is important to eat all different kinds of food in order to provide you with all the nutrients you need to be healthy.

2. Make starchy foods the basis of most meals

Starchy foods like maize meal, rice, samp, bread, potatoes, cereals and porridge give us energy, help us keep a healthy body weight and are affordable. It is better to choose a high fibre starchy food like brown or whole wheat bread and oats porridge. If you are overweight you should only eat a small amount of these foods everyday.

3. Eat plenty of fruit and vegetables everyday

These foods provide our body with the vitamins and minerals needed to boost our immune system. You should try to eat 5 portions of a variety of fruit and vegetable, preferably raw and with the skin on. 1 portion of fruit is the size of a small fist whereas a portion of vegetables is either 1 cup of raw vegetables or ½ a cup of cooked vegetables.

4. Chicken, fish, meat, eggs and dairy products can be eaten daily

These foods contain protein, vitamin D and calcium which are important to build strong muscles and bones. Adults require 2-3 cups of dairy products per day to receive sufficient calcium.

If you are overweight it is better to remove the skin and fat from the meat and to choose low fat or fat free dairy products.

For those who have rheumatoid arthritis it is important to try to eat lots of oily fish like tinned pilchards and sardines.

5. Eat dried beans, lentils, peas and soya regularly

These foods also contain protein to build strong muscles and bones.

If you are overweight these are better foods to eat as those mentioned above as they are more affordable than meat, they make your meal go further, are high in fibre and they have less fat.

6. Include Sugar, Fats & Oils in Meals

Eating too many sweet foods likes cakes, biscuits, sweets and chocolates can cause you to put on a lot of weight, therefore overweight people should not eat too much of these foods.

It is better to eat plant fats (known as unsaturated fats) instead of animal fats (known as saturated fats). Some examples of vegetable fats include vegetable oil such as sunflower oil, canola oil or olive oil, soft margarine, avocado and nuts. Oily fish and tinned fish with bones are also beneficial as these contain omega 3 fatty acids as well as calcium respectively. Fats give us energy and help to maintain a healthy body weight. However, if you are overweight try not to eat too many fatty foods. One portion of fat is 5 ml or 5g. If you are cooking a meal for a family you are allowed to use 5ml of oil per person, per meal.

7. Drink lots of clean safe water

It is important to drink 6-8 glasses (2 litres) of clean water. If you do not like the taste of water try adding some chopped up lemon and add it toyour water.

8. Use salt sparingly

It is better to flavour your food with herbs, spices, garlic and onions. Avoid products such as aromat, soup powder, gravy powder and stock cubes.

9. Be as active as you can

A good exercise program can help you to maintain your weight, increase muscle strength and reduce the symptoms and to help you move around more easily. Speak to your physiotherapist for an exercise program to follow at home.

10. Avoid smoking, drinking alcohol or caffeine containing beverages

Alcohol and beverages containing caffeine, such as coke, are high in sugar and energy and could make you gain weight if you drink it in excessive amounts. This additional weight will add to your joint pain. Further, your calcium levels are lowered by smoking and this is detrimental to osteoporosis.

By Melissa Pyle, BSc. in Dietetics, Registered Dietician (SA)

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