May is National Arthritis Month, and the Arthritis Foundation is highlighting ways that the 37 million Americans with this problem can maintain or even improve their quality of life.
A program called PALS (Partners in Lay Support) is designed for people with arthritis. A trained volunteer provides practical advice, help with community resources or just a friendly ear. All conversations are confidential. A booklet of tips, suggestions, and other good ideas for living with arthritis -- "Taking Care -- Protecting Your Joints and Saving Your Energy" -- is available free.
To learn more, write to the Arthritis Foundation, Southern Maryland Branch, 22 Truckhouse Road, Severna Park, 21146. Information: 544-5433 or (800) 365-3811.
Here are some ideas that can help people deal with arthritis:
* Weight control -- The foundation recommends that overweight, middle-aged and older Americans lose weight to prevent knee osteoarthritis.
For example, a study discovered that weight loss of 11 pounds in women of average height over a 10-year period decreases the odds of developing knee osteoarthritis by more than half. The study did not examine the effects of weight loss in those who already have knee osteoarthritis.
* "Home" remedies -- Studies have shown that around one person in 10 trying an unproven remedy reports harmful side effects.
Among these dubious and unproven remedies are copper bracelets, uranium mines, snake venom and mega-vitamins.
Some of the remedies attempted include mineral springs, or vinegar and honey, which are essentially harmless. Remedies with unknown effects on the body are fish oil, bee venom and special diets.
A treatment is likely unproven if it claims to cure arthritis or work for all types of arthritis; uses only case histories or testimonials as proof; does not list contents or has no directions for proper use; has no information or warnings about side effects; describes itself as harmless or natural; claims to be based on a secret formula or is available only from one source.
The rule of thumb is to be cautious and to investigate before trying a non-traditional form of treatment. Talk to your doctor and continue to follow the prescribed medical treatment.
To learn more, call or write to the foundation, requesting a copy of the brochure "Unproven Remedies."
* Arthritis Today is a consumer magazine devoted exclusively to arthritis. It provides comprehensive coverage that educates, informs and inspires people with arthritis and the health professionals who serve them.
Cover stories take an in-depth look at research, medical and quality-of-life issues that directly affect the readers. The magazine also features research updates, medical questions and arthritis-related news briefs, as well as practical tips on food, nutrition, travel and financial matters.
* Preparing a proper dinner can be a time-consuming task for any cook. But for people with arthritis, the task can be painful, too.
The average kitchen has many obstacles for people with painful joints. But by making some inexpensive modifications and using energy-saving methods, people can protect themselves. The following ideas will simplify food preparation for arthritis sufferers:
* Plan ahead -- Organize your activities to lessen physical stress and fatigue. If possible, do some of the cooking and meal preparation ahead of time.
* Rest -- Alternate periods of food preparation with periods of rest.
* Sit -- For comfort and support, use a high bar stool. One that swivels is best.
* Labor-savers -- like electric can openers, mixers, knives and blenders -- conserve energy and prevent strain to the joints. People who have problems holding objects should place foam rubber padding around the handles of knives, pans or other daily kitchen items. Use pliers with built-up handles to turn small knobs on the oven and other appliances and to open paper cartons.