7 Bad Habits to Drop With Rheumatoid Arthritis

Adjusting to Life With RA

1 / 8   Adjusting to Life With RA

It’s easy to fall prey to bad health habits, especially when you’re busy with work and family demands. And you feel so tired at the end of most days that all you want to do is grab a fast-food meal, sit on the couch, and veg out. Beyond being generally unhealthy, that battle plan can increase your risk for developing rheumatoid arthritis (RA) or can make managing RA more difficult, if you already have it.

Whether you’re newly diagnosed with RA or have been dealing with the joint pain from RA for a while, here are seven bad health habits to kick to the curb once and for all. And because RA is a progressive disease, there’s no time like the present to make these changes.


2 / 8   Smoking

Quitting smoking can go a long way toward rheumatoid arthritis prevention. If you’re at risk for developing RA, you don’t want to light up, and if you’re already smoking, you want to quit. This goes double if you already have RA.

A study done in Sweden and published in the Annals of Rheumatic Diseases shows that more than a third of cases of the most common form of RA can be attributed at least in part to smoking. For people who have a genetic risk, the link is 50 percent. Smoking also can reduce the effectiveness of methotrexate, one of the most commonly prescribed and effective drugs for treating rheumatoid arthritis and its joint pain, says Houston rheumatologist Alan Friedman, MD.

Drinking Too Much Alcohol

3 / 8   Drinking Too Much Alcohol

Drinking too much is not good for anyone’s health, Dr. Friedman says. That’s especially true for people who are on medications to reduce the joint pain and swelling of rheumatoid arthritis and to slow its progression. The problem is that alcohol taxes your liver, and so can RA medications, including methotrexate, “so heavy drinking can be a double whammy,” Friedman says.

Drinking also can reduce your bone density, and a lower bone density puts you at greater risk for complications from arthritis, including fractures. Love your merlot? Drink in moderation, and ask your doctor if the general health rule of one drink a day for women, two for men, is the right one to follow.


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