Oct 24, 2013

Obesity accelerates wear and tear in joints

As we observe World Obesity Day, Dr Rajeev K Sharma, Senior Consultant, Orthopedic and Joint Replacement Surgeon, Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals, New Delhi, writes about the harm caused by obesity on the health of joint

We all know that obesity can have dangerous consequences on health including increased risks of cardiovascular diseases, hypertension, diabetes and several other ailments. However, excess weight also severely hampers the health of our joints, and this is one aspect of obesity that is not much talked about.

As we observe the World Obesity Day recently, we are hearing all sorts of right noises about the need of creating awareness to prevent obesity from becoming an epidemic. However, not much is being talked about regarding the impact of obesity on the health of joints of people who are overweight.

Joints are a vital part of our bodies that enable movements of our body parts and having them is good health is extremely crucial for our general well being. A problem in our knees can restrict our movement, degrade our quality of life and further fuel the problem of weight gain by forcing you to a sedentary life.

Obese people often report pain in joints mostly caused by excess wear and tear of cartilage around the bones, and in the long run this is something that leads to the requirement of joint replacement.

It is a no brainer that the joints especially the knees and the hip joint bears the weight of the entire body. While a person moves, walks or indulges in more vigorous activities, the force exerted on the joints is even greater than the body weight.

According to estimates, India already has more than 3 crore obese people and the number is only expected to rise in the near future. With increase in urbanization, a visible tilt towards a sedentary lifestyle, addiction to technology and lack of exercise, add to it the faulty eating habits we are adopting in our lives, all these factors are feeding into our obesity crisis. There was a time when obesity was considered a problem of the rich nations. Not any more, low and middle income countries like India too are now facing this health menace. It hence becomes the need of the hour to create awareness about obesity and its implications.

Obesity predisposes you to a wide spectrum of other disorders, often deadly.  An obese person has all the more chances to meet heart-related ailments like heart-attack, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, high blood cholesterol and some kinds of cancer as well.

As for joints, obesity can accelerate the need for joint replacement in a person by putting excessive force on the joints.

Osteoarthritis, a common type of joint arthritis, occurs when the cartilage surrounding your bones and its edges wears away. This wear and tear happens due to use over time. Understandably, when the joints bear the pressure of excess force due to heavy weight of the body over a persistent period of time, the cartilage can give away sooner than in people with normal body weight.

As this cartilage, that provides much needed cushion between bones degenerates and erodes, the bones rub against each other, causing pain in the joints. This kind of arthritis can be avoided or at least delayed if body weight is kept under control.

Interestingly, when you are living with obesity, you all the more need to indulge in physical activity. But osteoarthritis will further restrict your movement, trapping you into a vicious circle of physical inactivity causing further weight gain.

The best way to deal with obesity is to prevent it. For people who have a tendency towards gaining excess weight, it is all the more important to keep a tab on their diet, and follow a healthy lifestyle.

However, obese people who are living with severe pain in joints should not shy away from seeking medical help for joint replacement.

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