The Center for Disease Control reports that more than one-third of Americans are considered obese, and that the estimated medical costs related to obesity range in the hundreds of billions of dollars. Joint health happens to be one of the areas that can be most directly impacted by obesity.
Orthopedics and Obesity
Obesity is defined as a BMI (body mass index) of 30 or higher, while a normal BMI range runs between 18.5 and 24.9. It should come as no surprise that trying to support many extra pounds above a healthy BMI can put a tremendous strain on the joints, particularly load-bearing joints like the hips and knees. The impact obesity has on joint health is twofold: excess weight leads to structural damage in the bones and joints, while the wear and tear of normal movement is also increased.
Additionally, those who are obese are most likely living an extremely sedentary lifestyle, and reduced joint movement plus minimal exercise can be a detrimental combination to joint health. For example, since the cartilage doesn’t have its own blood supply, it depends on regular motion to circulate the nourishing synovial fluid. Without ample activity, the cartilage deteriorates more rapidly. This means osteoarthritis is more commonly seen at an earlier age in obese men and women, and also means that arthritis, once present, accelerates more quickly.
Whole-Body Joint Health
Joint health doesn’t begin and end with the joint itself, but instead is interconnected with overall physical health and exercise habits. Obesity is a major contributor and a high risk factor for any number of serious health concerns, including arthritis and other orthopedic conditions. If your BMI is over 30, it’s time to take care of yourself and your joints by adopting some significant lifestyle changes.