More Obesity Fallout: Nearly 50 Million Americans with Arthritis

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More than one-fifth of American adults — that’s 49.9 million people — are clinically diagnosed with arthritis and, of those, 20 million say they are physically limited by the condition, according to new government figures. What’s more, the worsening problem is likely associated with rising rates of obesity, with one-third of obese people reporting arthritis.

The data, published Oct. 8 in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), came from the 2007–2009 National Health Interview Survey, which also associated rising rates of arthritis with rising levels of inactivity. HealthDay reports:

“The report confirms arthritis is common, costly and disabling,” Arthritis Foundation president and CEO Dr. John H. Klippel said in a statement. “The number of adults with arthritis has increased by nearly one million per year and it is impacting the usual activities of an unprecedented 21 million adults.”

He added that, “with some 67 million Americans projected to have arthritis by 2030, now is the time to escalate efforts to prevent, treat and cure the most common cause of disability in the United States.”

According to the Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center, overweight is strongly associated with arthritis. Although it’s not clear exactly how body weight influences the condition, data suggest that excess weight may increase stress on joints and speed breakdown of cartilage. For example, being 10 lbs. overweight adds about 30 to 60 lbs. of extra force on your knees with each step.

The MMWR’s authors say national arthritis rates can be reduced through promotion of exercise, obesity prevention and better public awareness.

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