Who is at Risk for Developing Arthritis?

Millions of Americans are living with arthritis. This inflammatory condition causes pain and can limit mobility. When you think of arthritis, older adults likely come to mind, and it’s true, age is a major risk factor for developing arthritis. However, a number of other factors put you at risk for arthritis, some of which are under your control. At Prima Medicine in Fairfax and South Riding, Virginia, we can help you learn how to best manage these factors and reduce your risk of developing arthritis.

What is arthritis?

Arthritis refers to more than 100 conditions characterized by inflammation in and around the joints. While it’s more common in older adults, people of all ages can get arthritis, even children. People who have arthritis experience joint inflammation in different areas of the body. 

The inflammation most often causes pain, swelling, and stiffness. Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis. The knees, hip, wrist, and spine are typically affected. This form of arthritis occurs when the cartilage that cushions the joints wears down over time. Osteoarthritis is more common in adults ages 45 and older. Learn what factors put you at risk for arthritis and what you can do to protect yourself.


Carrying excess weight places a strain on your body, including your joints. So it’s no surprise that being overweight raises the risk of developing arthritis. If you have arthritis, obesity can make it worse. The good news is weight is a risk factor you can control and losing even a modest amount of weight can ease the stress on your joints, and lower the chances of developing arthritis. 

High-level sports

Participating in sports at a high level can increase the risk of developing arthritis. For example, the repetitive motion of pitching can increase the wear and tear on the shoulder joint in people who participate in high-level baseball. Sports that involve impact, such as football, can damage bones or joints. Even long-distance running can raise the wear and tear on your knees. 

Keep in mind that moderate exercise reduces the risk of arthritis. If you participate in high-level sports, speak with your doctor about how to protect yourself.

Older age

Age is a major risk factor for arthritis, and while you can’t control getting older, you can support your joints in aging well. As you age, cartilage breaks down and bones and joints undergo degenerative changes. Following a nutritious diet, engaging in exercise and managing your weight are all ways to keep your joints healthy as you age. It’s especially important to get enough vitamin D and calcium. Both nutrients work together to keep your bones and joints healthy. 

Decaffeinated coffee

While some arthritis risk factors are more well-known, others may come as a surprise to you. Decaffeinated coffee consumption is independently linked to an increased risk of rheumatoid arthritis. This type of arthritis occurs when the immune system mistakenly attacks the joints, causing inflammation. The joints in the hands and feet are most often affected. Keep in mind that it is unknown whether decaffeinated coffee itself or the type of preparation is to blame for this increased risk. 

Certain occupations

Is your job putting you at risk for arthritis? Some jobs are harder on your joints than others. Occupations that involve heavy lifting, like working construction, raise the risk of developing arthritis. Working in a field that places stress on the joints doesn’t automatically mean that you’ll develop arthritis. Lifting correctly and using appropriate safety gear can help ease the stress on your joints. 

Because age and genetics play a role in developing arthritis, it’s not always possible to avoid it. However, living a healthy lifestyle is one of the best ways to lower your arthritis risk. Habits like smoking, drinking excess alcohol, leading a sedentary lifestyle and eating a poor diet all boost the risk of developing arthritis. Talking to our expert team of doctors and nurse practitioners about how to reduce your risk is the best place to start.

The providers at Prima Medicine are here for all of your urgent care needs. Patients in need of urgent medical attention can call one of our offices or request an appointment now using our online booking system.

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