The rising tide of arthritis and fake knees

It is stunning that about 1 out of 20 adults 50 and older have fake knees. The demand for knee replacements have doubled in the last decade, rising to 600,000 in 2009.

Two opposite factors are fueling this trend: baby boomers who want to “fixed” to be able to pursue active lifestyles, and the fact that people are carrying more weight longer.

About 50 million Americans – or about 1 out of 5 U.S. adults – have been diagnosed with arthritis. That number is expected to rise 1 out of 3 adults by 2030 the entire baby boomer generation becomes elderly. About half of those over age 65 have arthritis.

Arthritis is also the nation’s most common cause of disability. Nearly 21 million Americans say they have activity limitations because of the condition.

Two-thirds of diagnosed arthritis patients are under 65. Of those, about 4 out of 10 have work limitations because of it.

The lifetime risk of developing knee arthritis that causes pain is 45 percent. That rises to 57 percent for those with a past knee injury, and 60 percent for obese people.

Arthritis is composed of more than 100 rheumatic diseases and conditions. Osteoarthritis, the most common form, mostly affects the cartilage. Cartilage is the slippery tissue that covers the ends of bones in a joint. Healthy cartilage allows bones to glide over each other and absorbs the shock of movement. In osteoarthritis, the top layer of cartilage breaks down and wears away as people age. This allows bones under the cartilage to rub together.

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that can develop at any age. Common symptoms for both include pain, aching, stiffness, and swelling in and near the joints.

In 2003, the total cost of arthritis was $128 billion, including $81 billion in medical costs and $47 billion in lost earnings. The condition results in nearly one million hospitalizations annually. Nearly half of the hospital discharges are for knee replacement procedures.

Exercise is an effect way to combat arthritis. However, those with the condition find physical activity a challenge. More than half of U.S. adults with diabetes or heart disease also have arthritis. This impedes chronic-disease management. More than half of women and about 40 percent of men with arthritis get no physical activity. Fewer than 1 out of 7 men and 1 out of 12 women met the federal physical activity guidelines of 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week. Exercise can reduce pain, lessen joint stiffness, increase strength and increase mobility. This is contrary to a common myth that people with arthritis need to rest their joints.

 Self-management education initiatives such as the Arthritis Foundation Self-Help Program can teach people how to manage arthritis more effectively. Research has shown the program helps reduce depression and fatigue, and reduced pain by 40 percent.

Weight loss is also an important component of arthritis management. A loss of 15 pounds can cut knee pain in half and reduce disability.  About 2 out of 3 arthritis patients are overweight or obese, which puts excess stress on joints.