When the pain of rheumatoid arthritis is getting to you, sometimes the most comforting habits are also the most harmful. After a day of walking around with stiff joints and muscles, you may feel like ordering take-out, lying down in front of the TV, smoking a cigarette.
But there are better ways to relax, and those which cause short-term pleasure may worsen your symptoms in the long haul. Certain habits increase the risk for developing rheumatoid arthritis. And if you’ve been diagnosed already, they can certainly make it more difficult to manage.
Rheumatoid arthritis is a progressive disease, so it’s never too late to start to work on eliminating unhealthy habits. For a better idea of what those habits are, here’s a list from Everyday Health:
7 Bad Habits to Drop with Rheumatoid Arthritis
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.
Letting Stress Get to You
“It’s never good to be stressed out,” Friedman says. “We know — and have for years — that stress can trigger RA flares.” Some stress, such as from an accident or illness, is unavoidable, but you can learn to manage everyday stress at work and at home to keep your RA under control. Your approach doesn’t have to be complicated, and it can even be fun — yoga, meditation, and exercise are all good ways to reduce stress and recharge. Yoga may ease RA stiffness, too.
Being Short on Sleep
Sleep is another must-have for health, but we often shortchange ourselves, especially when a work deadline is looming or you’re scrambling to meet your kids’ needs. When you have RA, sleep becomes even more vital.
Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine found that people with RA who had poor sleep habits had less function and were more severely disabled by their disease. Being exhausted from a lack of sleep also can lead to other bad habits, like being more tempted to eat unhealthy foods and skipping workouts at the gym. Aim for at least 7 hours of high-quality, uninterrupted sleep every night, and you’ll be better equipped to manage your RA and live life to the fullest.
For the remaining four bad habits you don’t want to hold onto, see the original article here. It can be extremely difficult to develop new habits and to let go of the ones that cause more harm than good, especially when those bad habits can sometimes deliver great short-term pleasure. When trying to weed these habits from your everyday life, try to stay focused on the finish line.