The number of adults in the U.S. suffering from arthritis has risen to an “all-time high,” says a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), with 60 percent of those affected under 65.
“This is not your mother’s arthritis. Contrary to popular opinion, it is not an old person’s disease,” acting CDC director Anne Schuchat, M.D., told reporters during a teleconference. Of the 54 million Americans who report being diagnosed with arthritis, some 32 million are of working age (18 to 64), including 24 million adults ages 45 to 64, according to the latest CDC figures.
Not only has the total number of diagnosed cases risen, but those who say arthritis has severely limited their activities has jumped 20 percent since 2002, to 24 million.
Arthritis is a painful, inflammatory condition of the joints that makes simple tasks like holding a cup, walking to a car or lifting a bag of groceries virtually impossible. It includes osteoarthritis, the most common form, as well as rheumatoid arthritis, gout, lupus and fibromyalgia.
The CDC’s analysis of recent federal health data also found that women are more likely to have arthritis than men, and so are those who are obese or who have heart disease or diabetes. About 49 percent of people with heart disease and 47 percent of those with diabetes have been diagnosed with arthritis, along with about a third of adults who are obese.
Despite the pain and stiffness that arthritis causes, the report suggests that many people could reduce these symptoms by 40 percent with regular physical activity, which helps keep joints from stiffening. Currently, 1 in 3 adults with arthritis report being inactive.
“This phrase says it all: ‘Rest is rust, motion is lotion,’” Schuchat said. Even though those with arthritis may be reluctant to try exercise because of their painful joints, studies have shown that being physically active helps lubricate the joints, easing pain and improving movement.
Schuchat called on health care providers to do more to encourage patients to slowly increase their physical activity — such as with a short walk or a lap in the pool — and to strive for a healthy weight to reduce pressure on joints.
The CDC’s findings are based on 2013 to 2015 data analyzed from the National Health Interview Survey. The agency estimates that direct medical expenses stemming from arthritis cost the nation $81 billion a year, including a million hip and knee replacements — 99 percent of which are due to arthritis-related pain and disability.