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Arthritis and women in Canada

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A common myth for arthritis is that it is a disease of aging. It is not and over 6 million Canadians of all ages are affected by it. And more women than men seem to be affected.

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Arthritis is a collection of more than 100 conditions that affect people of all ages from toddlers to seniors. The idea that arthritis is a disease that manifests with old age is false. In fact, osteoarthritis – the most common form of arthritis – is more prevalent in those younger than 65 than older.

A recent study revealed that 30% of people living with osteoarthritis were actually diagnosed before 45. Osteoarthritis is a progressive disease of the joints that leads to breakdown of joint cartilage and the underlying bone.

“Arthritis is serious. Full stop. For too long people with arthritis have had to convince others of the seriousness of their condition and the validity of their pain,” says Trish Barbato, Arthritis Society President and CEO. “We’re here to sound the alarm and to extinguish the phrase, ‘it’s just arthritis.’ Because, there’s nothing just about arthritis.”

September is national arthritis awareness month in Canada and more Canadians, especially women, need to be aware. As part of Arthritis Awareness Month, monuments will be lit in blue across the country including the Parliament Buildings in Victoria, the Calgary Tower, the Toronto sign, Niagara Falls and Halifax City Hall.

“We’re going to shine brightly from coast to coast to coast,” says Barbato. “We won’t be invisible any longer.”

According to the Arthritis Society of Canada, of the 6 million Canadians affected by arthritis, over 60% are women. Women also often experience worse pain –ache in different joints – and are far more vulnerable to rheumatoid arthritis, one of the most debilitating forms of the condition.

Arthritis affects women differently than men, especially in the joints. Men will experience it more often in their hips, while women find it more in their hands and knees. It is believed that this is because women’s tendons and joints move around more to accommodate for childbirth.

Estrogen also plays a factor as it is key to keeping inflammation down in the body. As women age, their hormones change and with menopause, this shift in hormone levels is often followed by arthritis. Researchers are trying to unravel this complexity as they see connections between puberty, childbirth and the use of hormone replacement therapy.

Weight is another factor where we see higher rates of obesity in women in Canada and that adds to pressure on knee joints, eroding the cartilage and opening the door to arthritis. Family genealogy is also considered to be a factor.

Common arthritis symptoms in women include;

  • Pain, swelling, and stiffness in one or multiple joints.
  • Morning stiffness in and around the affected joints lasting at least one hour.
  • Pain and stiffness that worsens with inactivity and improves with physical activity.
  • Reduced range of motion.
  • Very early symptoms of osteoarthritis are intermittent pain with strenuous activity; over time, the pain is present more often.
  • Joint grinding.

So what are your options to treat arthritis? It depends on the type you have and how far along you are and where it is. For some it is relatively mild with flare ups and can be managed through minor pain relievers, for others it may require stronger medications. Research also shows that diet can have an impact as well. Some who have arthritis move to a plant-based diet which plays a role in reducing inflammation in the whole body. Eating processed foods, especially processed meats is a huge cause of inflammation. If detected earlier in life, treatment seems to be less onerous and can play a role as women age.

You might also want to check out this informative article on CBD and how it can help with inflammation.


  • Alex Hurst is a writer for HUM@Nmedia covering Optimyz and Silver magazines in print and digital editions and is based in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

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