Submitted by Overlake Medical Center
When 79-year-old Carol Shrader goes grocery shopping these days, she shops the perimeter; fresh produce, meats and dairy while avoiding the processed carb-heavy items that tend to haunt the inner-aisles.
By changing her own diet, Shrader who is 5 feet, 5 inches has dropped from weighing about 200 pounds to now hovering near 150 pounds. Among the many health benefits, Shrader is happiest about the significant reduction in joint pain.
“My hip pain has basically gone away, my knees are better too,” says Shrader. “I used to walk bent forward in pain, now I can push off with my feet better, which also just looks better too.”
Proliance Orthopaedic surgeon Trevor Scott, MD, who is affiliated with Overlake Medical Center explains to patients that joints can take up as much as seven times a person’s body weight if walking down stairs and five times the body’s weight simply getting in and out of a chair.
“Losing weight is a proven non-operative intervention that helps patients with arthritis of the hip or knee feel better.”
According to a Centers for Disease Control report, between 2007-2010 more than one-third of Americans aged 65 and over were obese. The CDC reports no difference in obesity prevalence between men and women. Like Shrader, older patients often find carrying too much weight can also cause other health problems such as diabetes.
Dr. Scott recognizes the dilemma for many older patients; it can difficult to lose weight when it hurts to exercise. He recommends low-impact activities like walking, swimming, aquajogging, or biking and avoiding exercise that exacerbates pain.
“Impact activity such as running usually inflames the joints, making arthritic joints painful,” says Scott. “Losing weight may not give you 100 percent pain relief, but a lot of patients feel better enough that they can return to more activities.”
If a patient does need hip or knee joints replaced, orthopedic surgeons often require a body mass index, or BMI of less than 40. Dr. Scott says generally speaking, a BMI of below 35 is preferred to minimize the potential for complications after surgery such as infection risk.
But, if an older patient can lose enough weight, Dr. Scott says not only can they prolong the amount of time they can go without having surgery, “Sometimes they can even get rid of the need for surgery altogether.”
“My weight loss didn’t happen overnight,” says Shrader. “After trying every diet out there over the years, I just took it slow and easy this time and now I go to the South Bellevue Community Center and can do the treadmill, bicycle and weights, I go five days a week.”