Arthritis: Here are the foods and activities to avoid that make it worse

More than 54 million people in the United States suffer from some type of arthritis.

It's the leading cause of disability.

There are lots of medicines to make arthritis symptoms better, but there are also things you do that can make it worse.

If you have arthritis, you know all about the pain, swelling and stiffness that the disease brings on.

Dr. Mathew Pombo with the Emory Orthopedics & Spine Center said, "We're seeing arthritis at an earlier age, not only in the knees, but shoulders, really everywhere. It's becoming an epidemic of sorts."

But did you know certain habits can make your symptoms worse?

Staying still is the first mistake that can intensify your pain.

Regular physical activity makes your joints more flexible. But too much exercise can also be a bad thing.

"We also have a lot of younger people participating in sports and we know that prior injury leads to post-traumatic arthritis," said Pombo.

Try swimming, biking or walking for about 30 minutes a day.

Ignoring your dental health may also lead to worse problems. One study found the bacterium that causes periodontal disease increases the severity of rheumatoid arthritis.

The wrong foods can also cause inflammation in the body and trigger symptoms.

Some ingredients to avoid: sugar, saturated fats, refined carbs, omega-six fatty acids, MSG, gluten, aspartame and alcohol.

Lastly, stress could make your symptoms worse.

A trauma or stressful situation can actually trigger the development of certain types of arthritis.

Yoga, meditation and getting enough sleep can help you manage your stress levels.

Smoking is another bad move. Recent research shows both current and past smokers with arthritis had worse symptoms and more joint damage than those who never smoked.
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