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World Arthritis Day is on October 12 and in Canada, nearly 4.6 million people, or one in six, report having arthritis or one of the associated autoimmune conditions. Arthritis is an umbrella term for over 50 different, irreversible autoimmune conditions including rheumatoid arthritis, vasculitis, scleroderma, lupus and others. In these conditions, the body’s immune system becomes “confused” and attacks itself. These diseases can strike anyone, at any time and there is no known cure.

People living with arthritis or an associated autoimmune condition can experience symptoms such as joint inflammation, stiffness, chronic pain, weakness and fatigue. They can also sometimes develop depression or anxiety as a result of their condition.

“Many patients with arthritis and autoimmune diseases experience chronic, long-lasting pain, which make it difficult to perform daily tasks, such as cleaning, dressing or cooking meals,” says Dr. Edward Keystone, Director of the Rebecca MacDonald Centre for Arthritis and Autoimmune Disease. “Sometimes, making lifestyle changes can help alleviate the pain, stiffness and discomfort associated with these diseases.”

Here are three lifestyle tips to help manage arthritis and related autoimmune conditions:

1. Take care of your emotional and physical well-being

The pain and challenges of arthritis or related autoimmune conditions can sometimes have a psychological impact on everyday life, so it’s important to take care of both your emotional and physical well-being. Tracking your emotions in a diary or talking to friends, family members or patient support groups can help manage your emotions. Meditation, visualization or relaxation techniques can also help channel emotions. Making healthy lifestyle choices, such as avoiding smoking, reducing alcohol intake, avoiding stress and getting enough sleep can help with you physical well-being.

2. Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet

Eating a well-balanced diet is important for people with arthritis and related autoimmune conditions. Some types of foods such as fish, soy, oils, citrus fruits, beans, nuts and whole grain products have been shown to help fight inflammation, strengthen bones and boost the immune system. Reducing and limiting your sugar and salt intake can also help maintain a healthy weight and help fight inflammation. Speak to your doctor or a dietitian to ensure you are eating a proper diet.

3. Get active

Being physically active can benefit people with arthritis and related autoimmune conditions however, the most appropriate activity depends on a variety of factors, such as the type of arthritis or autoimmune disease you have, the joints and muscles affected and the level of damage to your muscles and joints. Activities such as cycling, dancing, walking, gardening, swimming, tai chi, yoga and pilates may help manage the disease. It’s important to consult your doctor or physiotherapist to determine what exercise is most appropriate for your condition.