Weight is an important risk factor for osteoarthritis. Being overweight increases the probability of developing osteoarthritis in weight bearing joints such as the knees and hips. This is because heavier individuals put much more load on these areas leading to greater wearing of these joints.
Some studies have also linked weight with osteoarthritis in other areas such as the hands which suggests there may be other factors associated with weight gain that increase osteoarthritis risk besides the extra load on weight bearing joints.
It is estimated that the force exerted on the knee joints while walking is between 2 to 7 times a persons body weight. This means a person just 20 pounds heavier than their ideal weight could be exerting more than 100 pounds of additional force on each knee joint.
Data from the first National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (HANES I) has suggested that obese women are almost four times more likely to develop osteoarthritis in the knee compared to women of a healthy weight and that obese men are as much as five times more likely to develop osteoarthritis in the knee.
Another study called “Age, bodyweight, smoking habits and the risk of severe osteoarthritis in the hip and knee in men” which was published in the European Journal of Epidemology involved over 320,000 male construction workers. The study found a linear correlation between BMI and the incidence of osteoarthritis in both the hip and knee. This correlation was present even at relatively low BMI levels. An increase in BMI of 5 doubled the risk of developing osteoarthritis in the knee.
Finally a report, published in the Journal of Rheumatology involving the study of twin pairs, found that obesity was a risk factor in the development of both arthritis in the hands and in the joints of the knee. Overall the study found that the risk of developing osteoarthritis increased by between 9 and 13 percent per kg increase in body weight.
The good news is that losing even a moderate amount of weight can reduce your chances of developing arthritis significantly. Furthermore, those who have already developed arthritis can reduce both the pain caused by their arthritis and the progression of the disease by managing their weight.
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