“Being only 10 pounds overweight increases the force on the knee by 30-60 pounds with each step.” – Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center
The onset of joint pain may represent the early stages of osteoarthritis (the most common form of arthritis). Overweight and obesity increases the risk and progression of osteoarthritis because the extra load directly affects weight-bearing joints e.g. the knees and hips. Studies have shown that knee osteoarthritis is 4 to 5 times more common in overweight people compared with people who are of normal body weight, (1) and overweight individuals in their thirties who did not have knee OA were at greater risk of later developing the disease. (2)
Women, African-Americans and Hispanics face more severe osteoarthritis, functional limitation and disability but have less than optimal access to diagnostic, medical and surgical intervention, irrespective of their insurance coverage.
These same individuals have the highest levels of obesity in the nation, (3) coupled with the highest level of physical inactivity. (4)
Is obesity triggering osteoarthritis, or is osteoarthritis triggering obesity? While there may be evidence to support either contention, the consequence of inaction has far-reaching repercussions.
If untreated, what begins as painful movement can advance to a sedentary lifestyle and descend into disability. This may occur in parallel with a tragic downward spiral from normal weight to overweight to morbid obesity. The nexus of osteoarthritis and obesity may represent a national public health challenge that can have implications for chronic disease management, healthcare costs, and workforce productivity.
At the heart of this health crisis is the consequence of individual choice on health status. Osteoarthritis and obesity are progressive chronic conditions that may worsen or improve over time depending on when and how an individual decides to act.
How can we “crack the code” among communities disproportionately affected by obesity and osteoarthritis and catalyze a downward trajectory in the burden and impact of both health conditions?
We must find a way to make an impact now, while long-term solutions are being developed. The health of the nation is at stake. Eliminating musculoskeletal health disparities must be a national priority.
- Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center - http://www.hopkins-arthritis.org/patient-corner/disease-management/osteoandweight.html
- Felson DT, Anderson JJ, Naimark A, Walker AM, Meenan RF: “Obesity and knee osteoarthritis: The Framingham study.” Ann.Int.Med. 1988;109:18-24.
- The Surgeon General’s Vision for A Fit and Healthy Nation 2010 – U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
- “Physical Activity Among Adults: United States 2003″ – Advance Data from Vital and Health Statistics, Number 333 – May 14, 2003