While it is true that osteoarthritis mainly affects advanced-age population, it is increasingly becoming more common in people of different age and gender with very different needs who can’t find an answer to their ailment beyond the general approach.

If we create a profile for the osteoarthritis patient, we’ll have a 68-year-old person – two out of three would be women and 75% of them would be obese. As a result, this person has twice the risk of suffering from other pathologies such as cardiovascular diseases, cardiovascular hypertension, anxiety or depression.

Osteoarthritis is more prevalent in men under 45 years of age and in women aged 55 and over, the cause of this distribution being attributed to genetic and especially hormonal factors. In general, women suffer from the more severe form of osteoarthrosis in the hands and knees, while osteoarthrosis affects the hip joint more frequently in the male, especially before the age of 50.

However, as we have earlier mentioned, it also occurs in other risk groups.

Pareja madura bailando en la playa

Seniors

The increase in life expectancy has led to the aging of the world population. By 2030, almost 25% of the citizens of the European Union are expected to be over 65, while in 2005 this figure was 17%.

Currently, according to a study of the Spanish Society of Family and Community Medicine (Sociedad Española de Medicina Familiar y Comunitaria), more than 70% of those over 50 have radiological signs of osteoarthritis in some part of their anatomy, and 100% after 75 years of age.

Age is a factor that influences significantly the appearance of osteoarthritis. As such, it is essential for us to incorporate into our lifestyle measures that allow us to prevent the development of the disease in order to reach our golden years with good joint health.

Women

The female population – especially those over 45 years of age or postmenopausal women – is another group at risk of osteoarthritis.

In terms of age and gender, there is a higher prevalence of osteoarthritis in women, especially in those older than 50-55 years, as observed among the non-modifiable factors that condition the development of the disease. Although the explanation for this difference is unknown, the relationship between gender and osteoarthritis is clear after the second half of adulthood.

For example, up to age 45, knee osteoarthritis is more common in men. In contrast, from the age of 55 the disease significantly affects more women. Not only does it increase its incidence, but it also affects a greater number of joints and it becomes more severe.

Chica con el pelo largo sonriendo

On the other hand, 80% of the women with menopause suffer some form of articular pain. Out of this group, 50% of them admit it to be an intense or unbearable pain.

This is reflected in a study conducted by the Spanish Association for the Study of Menopause (from its Spanish Asociación Española para el Estudio de la Menopausia, AEEM), based on a sample of 1,600 women from all over Spain.

This is due to the decrease in estrogen that occurs after menopause, being one of the causes of the high prevalence of the disease. The most affected areas are the hands, knees, hips and spine, although estrogen depletion mainly affects the knee. In this sense, the Organización Médica Colegial (Medical College Organization) concludes in a report that different studies have shown that the prolonged administration of estrogen acts as a protective factor in the incidence and progression of knee osteoarthritis in postmenopausal women.

Jugador de fútbol en el suelo con dolor en la rodilla

Sport persons

Moderate physical exercise is very beneficial and advisable at all stages of life. Practicing sports is good for our joints. Strong muscles help to unload the joints and better cushion and protect us from ligament and tendon injuries. However, when sport is performed at very high intensity levels it can cause premature wear of the joints. Taken to extreme limits, exercise can act as a pathological agent on the locomotor system, causing trauma that leads to multiple injuries and to osteoarthritis.

Therefore, if you practice high performance sports you should pay special attention to your joint health. As an example, athletes who practice soccer, basketball, boxing, hockey, wrestling or lifting or throwing weights (impact sports), develop more osteoarthritis than long distance runners.

According to a study on chondroprotection in sport by doctors Pedro Guillen and José Mª Vilarrubias, elite soccer players present 15.5% knee osteoarthritis, compared to 3% in non-professional players. Sports that apply higher levels of strength such as boxing, weightlifting and wrestling also pose a very high risk of osteoarthritis.

Practicing sports is healthy but it must be done in a responsible way so as not to take the body to its limit and avoid mobility problems in the future. It is very important that the athlete dedicates the necessary time to warm up and recover before and after performing high intensity physical exercise.

Young people

Young people are the most vulnerable population and the group we have to invest more time and effort teaching about the disease. The protection of the joints should start from childhood by sharing appropriate rules and advice to follow since these healthy habits can avoid many ailments in the future.

Today, childhood obesity is one of the great challenges of society. In Europe, one in three 11-year-olds is overweight or obese and over 60% of these children will be overweight at an early adulthood. Bearing in mind that obesity is one of the main risk factors for osteoarthritis, damaging joints and limiting mobility, it is important to make children and young people aware of the need to acquire healthy habits that provide them with a life free of joint problems.

Grupo de niños sentados en el banquillo

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