3 Strategies to Help Men Living with Arthritis Thrive
My husband is passionate about building, renovating and bringing old spaces to modern life. As a contractor, he loves working with his hands, but that has come with a price. The repetitive movements of handling tools lead to osteoarthritis of his hands and lower back. We both understand the pain, defeat and frustration arthritis can bring to our lives. Some days feel impossible because completing a small task like, buttoning up your favourite shirt is a challenge. June is Men's Health Month in the U.S, so think about these strategies to help the men in your life to cope with arthritis:
1. Make small changes to improve your eating habits throughout the day.
Here are a few arthritis-friendly foods to help decrease inflammation and strengthen your bones :
Spinach- is rich in calcium, magnesium and vitamin K, which are all necessary to build healthy bones. Spinach also contains an antioxidant, kaempferol, which has been proven to decrease inflammation in people who have rheumatoid arthritis.
Fish- is an excellent source of protein and healthy fats, in particular omega-3 fatty acids, which have anti-inflammatory effects and help regulate blood pressure. As well as, fish are packed with vitamin D, which is necessary to build and maintain strong bones. Salmon and mackerel are the types of fish you would want to consume to receive these benefits!
Berries- are the strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and blackberries. They are filled with antioxidants, which have been proven to decrease inflammation. You can add this to any meal- a smoothie for breakfast or tossed in a salad for lunch!
Dairy Products- like cheese and yogurt are filled with vitamin D, calcium, and phosphate. These nutrients are important for increasing bone strength by helping to maintain calcium levels. There is controversy if these products cause inflammation, but small amounts are acceptable!
Nuts- are nutrient-dense, they contain a lot of protein, calcium, magnesium and alpha-linolenic acid. One of my favourite nuts is walnuts because they are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which gives us those anti-inflammatory properties.
2. Incorporate mental health coping strategies into your daily life
Mediation- this can be yoga or just closing your eyes and practicing deep breathing. The goal of meditation is to be in the present moment without any judgement, just notice negative thoughts and feelings and to be better prepared for them. This helps relieve anxiety because you are allowing yourself to take control of stressful situations.
Rest- think of your body like a cell phone battery. Your cell phone, usually by the end of the day, needs to be recharged and so does your body. After a long day, you have exerted so much energy that you have no more. It is important to get 7-8 hours of sleep every night in order to be filled with energy for the next day.
Take Care of Yourself- don’t ignore personal hygiene and nutrition! You don’t need to look like you’re going to a gala but having a nice clean shave can make you feel better about yourself. And remember to eat whole nutritious food to supply your body with energy. Putting good food into your body will make you feel better too!
Exercise- regular exercise can improve your mood, make you feel more relaxed and enhance self-esteem. This is because the brain releases endorphins (chemicals that make you feel good) throughout the body. These can be simple exercises like going for a walk around the block or riding your bike in the park.
3. Reach out for help
You don't need to be the "Macho Man" all the time. In order for real change to happen, the stigmatization that is associated with men and asking for treatment needs to end. Many men are suffering in silence and it is important for you to know that you have allies- people who care about your health and want you to speak up.
Wives, partners, mothers, daughters, sisters, and friends ask the men in your life who are suffering from arthritis if they are okay. This simple question can open up a conversation to give them the necessary treatment that is needed so they can thrive! Men suffering from arthritis, help is waiting for you and it will allow you to accomplish all your goals and dreams just like my husband and I did.
Happy Father's Day!
Special thanks to Emily Malfara, a 4th-year nutrition student at Ryerson University who assisted with the research and writing for this post.