If you’re living with psoriatic arthritis, making certain lifestyle changes can help you manage your condition and avoid potential flare-ups. What’s more, making these changes can also help keep psoriatic arthritis symptoms under control.
Most of the recommendations aren’t drastic. They’re simple adjustments or additions to your routine that not only help you better manage your condition, but also improve your overall health and quality of life.
Here are six healthy habits to adopt to help you control psoriatic arthritis, along with expert advice on how to implement each one.
1. Control Stress
Stress can trigger a psoriatic arthritis flare, so knowing how to manage the stress in your life can help keep symptoms at bay. The first step is to identify what causes your stress and then figure out a strategy to address it. This may mean taking some time out of your day to do an activity for yourself or asking for help from a family member or friend. Experiment with different strategies to find out what best helps you manage the stress in your life.
2. Eat Healthy
Sticking to a healthy diet can improve your health overall, but it can be especially important in reducing joint inflammation related to psoriatic arthritis. There’s even some research showing that certain foods can help either increase or decrease inflammation.
“In terms of dietary supplements or nutrition, no definitive recommendations can be made,” says Debendra Pattanaik, MD, an associate professor of medicine-rheumatology in the College of Medicine at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in Memphis. “However, nuts and seeds, fish oil, and foods rich in omega-3–fatty acids are anti-inflammatory and can be helpful. Other supplements, such as fresh turmeric and fresh garlic, are anti-inflammatory and can be included in the diet as well.”
You should also take steps to avoid fatty red meats, dairy, and sugar. And talk to your doctor about alcohol intake, as it can interact with certain medications and affect your liver.
3. Maintain a Healthy Weight
Being overweight can make psoriatic arthritis worse: Carrying excess pounds puts added stress on your joints, particularly in your hips, knees, ankles, and feet. Maintaining a healthy weight can also help reduce swelling and inflammation.
“Weight loss is a key factor to minimize the load on your joints and reduce pain,” says Dr. Pattanaik.
Adopting a healthy diet and exercising regularly are the best ways to lose weight. Work with your doctor or a dietitian to figure out what works best for you, advises the Arthritis Foundation.
4. Don’t Smoke
A study published in March 2019 in JAMA Dermatology found that methotrexate, a drug commonly used for treating psoriatic arthritis, may not be as effective in people who smoke as it is in nonsmokers.
Of course, smoking also increases your risk for a number of diseases, such as lung cancer and heart disease. Quitting smoking can help you prevent not only psoriatic arthritis symptoms and flares but also these other health complications.
5. Keep Moving
Exercising regularly can help prevent your joints from becoming stiff and painful. Water-based exercise is one of the best ways for people with any type of arthritis to get active. Being in the water creates zero impact for your joints, so you can avoid a potential flare-up that a more vigorous activity may trigger.
A physical therapist can help you determine which exercises are best for you. Running may be OK for someone whose symptoms appear mostly in their hands, while yoga might be better for someone with inflammation in the joints of their lower extremities.
“Another important concept is ‘joint protection,’ including modifying activities to avoid unnecessary strain on arthritic joints,” says Pattanaik. “Heavy impact exercises like walking fast on a hard surface or running on a treadmill are not helpful, and lifting heavy weights is also not recommended.”
It’s important to strike a balance between exercising regularly, maintaining joint flexibility, and knowing when to rest a painful, inflamed joint.
6. Manage Related Health Conditions
While psoriatic arthritis often goes hand in hand with psoriasis, most people are dealing with other health conditions as well. “Psoriatic arthritis is also commonly linked with obesity, as well as associated metabolic syndrome, coronary artery disease, and depression,” says Pattanaik.
Depression in particular can have a major impact on managing and treating psoriatic arthritis.
“Depression definitely complicates psoriatic arthritis management, as [depression] often interferes with seeking medical treatment [for psoriatic arthritis] or compliance with treatment, as well as motivation to exercise and maintain a healthy lifestyle,” says Pattanaik.
Gaining control of any other health conditions you have can help prevent psoriatic arthritis flares and slow disease progression. This may require seeing multiple specialists, such as a rheumatologist for psoriatic arthritis and a dermatologist for psoriasis. Your doctors can work together to find a treatment plan and suggest lifestyle changes that may work best for you.