With more than two-thirds of U.S. adults overweight or obese, and over 17 percent of children and adolescents, National Physical Fitness and Sports Month is the perfect time for all Americans to rededicate ourselves to the health benefits of an active lifestyle.
The risks of being overweight or obese include chronic conditions such as osteoarthritis, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, stroke, and some forms of cancer.
While having a family history may make you more likely to develop any of these conditions as you age, there are several ways you can delay, improve and even avoid these diseases entirely. These include eating a healthful diet, staying within your recommended weight range and being active.
As an orthopedic surgeon, I’ve cared for thousands of patients who suffer from osteoarthritis—the progressive deterioration of healthy cartilage in a joint. Almost half are overweight or obese, leading to increased wear and tear on their hip and knee joints. When you consider that every additional pound of body weight adds 5 pounds of pressure on each knee joint, it’s easy to see why excess weight compounds the problem.
That’s why my first recommendation to these patients is often to lose weight to relieve the increased stress on their joints. I also urge sedentary patients to step up their activity levels. Just like any other part of the human body, cartilage needs to be used to stay healthy. Stronger muscles can also stabilize joints, reducing pain and inflammation.
It’s always a good idea to check with your doctor before starting a new fitness regimen. Once you have the okay, remember any activity is better than no activity. Start slowly and don’t put yourself at risk. Build up your endurance gradually, making sure to stretch both before and after workouts. Most injuries I see happen when people aren’t physically ready for an activity.
If you find it hard to exercise because of joint pain, doctors have a number of treatment options that can help relieve your symptoms, including physical therapy, medications and injections. If your pain continues, the next step may be minimally invasive surgery to diagnose and treat the problem.
Should the pain start to affect your quality of life, partial or total joint replacement surgery may be your best choice. Joint replacement, the gold standard of treatment for advanced osteoarthritis for 40 years, is now better than ever with the introduction of robotic technology.
What’s happening now with joint replacement is similar to what’s happened in the auto industry. Cars have been around for decades, but as the technology improves, so does the quality.
Today’s joint replacement surgeons can now use the latest robotic-assisted surgical techniques to ensure the precise placement of joint implants, crucial to their long term success. Implants have improved dramatically, too, with newer models providing more natural results and lasting a lifetime.
Better technology means even people with debilitating osteoarthritis don’t have to sit on the sidelines anymore. They can reduce their risk of serious disease and enjoy a more active lifestyle that helps get them in shape for life.
For the rest of us? No more excuses. Let’s all commit to improving our health with a more active lifestyle during this year’s National Physical Fitness and Sports Month.
Dr. John H. Velyvis is Medical Director of Robotic Orthopedic Surgery at Seton Medical Center in Daly City. Recognized as one of the most experienced orthopedic surgeons on the West Coast using robotic-assisted technology, Dr. Velyvis received his undergraduate degree in biomedical engineering from Harvard University and his medical degree from Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York. On days when he’s not seeing patients or performing surgery, Dr. Velyvis is often found on one of his favorite tennis courts.