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Nearly All Americans With Arthritis Are 45 or Older

The disease is more common among adults with other underlying health conditions

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If you’re suffering from sore, swollen or stiff joints, you’re in good company. An estimated 53.2 million (or 1 in 5) adults in the U.S. have arthritis, a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found, and the vast majority of them — about 88 percent — are 45 and older.

“It’s a very large public health problem,” says Elizabeth Fallon, lead author on the report. “Arthritis is a leading cause of activity limitations and disabilities, and it can be costly to both individuals and the health care system.”  

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Individuals with osteoarthritis — which is the most common type of arthritis among the roughly 100 conditions that fall under its umbrella — shelled out an average of $11,052 per year for related medical expenses between 2008 and 2014. In 2013, the U.S. spent $140 billion on medical costs associated with arthritis, federal data shows.

Arthritis risk factors

Some individuals may be more at-risk than others. The prevalence of arthritis was higher among women than men, the CDC report found. It was also more common among adults who had other health conditions.

For example, more than half of adults with COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) have arthritis, the researchers found. The same goes for those with dementia, stroke and heart disease. And about 43 percent of adults with diabetes and roughly 43 percent with cancer have arthritis.

While arthritis is more common among older adults, it is not an inevitable part of aging, and health experts say certain lifestyle changes — such as maintaining a healthy weight, staying physically active and avoiding smoking — can lower your odds of getting it.

For those already battling arthritis, Fallon says it’s important to talk to your doctor about your symptoms. A recent poll by the University of Michigan found many adults try to manage their joint pain on their own with medications, supplements and other therapies that may or may not work.  

There are programs that have been proven to be effective in many communities that can help you manage the condition — you can find them on the CDC’s website. And while it may seem counterintuitive, health experts say physical activity is one of the best remedies. 

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