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Unlocking longevity: Essential tips for hip health

As a tall, heavier-than-average person, I’m more likely than most to require a hip replacement in my later years. This realisation has led me to research hip health recently. 

Also, rowing is a ‘hip hinge’ action, placing further stress on those joints. See my RYOB blog for more on that, here. 

According to the NHS, 109,831 hip replacements were carried out in 2021. The the table below displays the age and gender (women are more likely to need a replacement, with 59.4% needing an op at some point).

Source: NHS Digital

What can be done to reduce the likelihood and need for a hip replacement? 

I used ChatGPT (an AI chatbot that can perform research tasks) to search the internet for the latest guidance. 

The main effects of osteoarthritis (the most common form of arthritis in the UK) and the primary reason for hip replacement are joint space narrowing, cartilage degeneration, and, ultimately, bone degeneration, says Emily Scott, D.O., C.A.Q.S.M., of Direct Care Physicians of Pittsburgh and a member of the Allegheny County Medical Society.

Osteoarthritis symptoms include deep, achy pain in certain areas of the body (especially with movement), morning stiffness, crepitus (a crackling sound in the joints), and limited range of movement, says Leah Johansen, M.D., a family medicine physician specializing in functional medicine at Lifeforce, an online health optimization platform.

All experts seem to agree that diet is a factor in determining hip health. A balanced, nutritious diet will always be important but what supplements can assist? 

Research suggests four can help. I’ve added three to the fish oil I already take daily. 

Glucosamine and chondroitin may help improve symptoms of osteoarthritis like joint pain and function.

  

Fish oil may reduce inflammation, joint pain, stiffness, and swelling in individuals with rheumatoid arthritis. 

Curcumin (the active compound in turmeric) may ease inflammation and reduce joint swelling and tenderness. 

Collagen may reduce bone pain, strengthen tendons and ligaments, and improve osteoarthritis symptoms.

One possible drawback of using supplements is they may not address the root cause of joint degeneration, such as musculoskeletal alignment or dietary aspects.

And, as is often the case with supplements, there isn’t any conclusive evidence that one supplement has a clear positive effect on hip health. 

Supplements also have the potential to interact with specific medications and may pose risks for individuals with certain medical conditions. So always discuss any change in your use of supplements with someone suitably qualified first. There are other ways to improve hip health without taking supplements. 

Get more movement: Try to alternate between sitting and standing during the day and incorporate stretch breaks to prevent joint stiffness and pain. When exercising, opt for low-impact exercises that are easier on joints like swimming,  biking, or even rowing! 

Lose excess weight: If you are living with overweight or obesity, even modest weight loss can help alleviate stress on your knees. In fact, every pound lost reduces four pounds of pressure on knees and other weight-bearing joints.

Stop smoking: Smoking may reduce bone mass, which can contribute to the development of osteoarthritis.

Eat more calcium: Getting enough calcium helps keep your bones strong and lowers the risk of developing osteoporosis. To increase your calcium consumption, eat more foods like yogurt, kale, broccoli and salmon or consider taking a calcium supplement.

Up your vitamin C intake: Vitamin C may help to slow the progression of osteoarthritis. To get more of this nutrient, aim to consume foods like citrus fruits, strawberries, peppers and broccoli or add a vitamin C supplement to your wellness routine.

Wear supportive shoes: Wearing shoes with high heels puts extra stress on your knees and may contribute to the development of osteoarthritis. Instead, opt for flexible shoes with rubber soles for better cushioning.

Promoting hip health involves a comprehensive approach that includes maintaining a healthy weight to reduce stress on the hip joints, engaging in regular physical activity like walking or swimming to strengthen the muscles around the hips, and practising exercises that improve flexibility and range of motion. 

Additionally, consuming a balanced diet supports bone health. It's also important to avoid activities that strain the hips excessively and to use supportive devices if necessary. 

Each of these supplements discussed and activities may have wider benefits too but, as always, before making any changes to your diet or physical activities, discuss the changes with your doctor first.

Tom.

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