illustration of hand and knee joints where arthritis causes pain

Arthritis Pain Keeps Heart Disease Suffers Inactive

Arthritis may create an additional barrier to using physical activity to help people manage their heart disease, according to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Adults with both heart disease and arthritis are significantly more likely to be physically inactive than those with heart disease alone, the study said. "Engaging in regular physical activity can help reduce arthritis pain and improve joint function, which in turn can help people with heart disease get more active and better manage both conditions," said Chad Helmick, M.D., a CDC medical epidemiologist and co-author of the study.

The study in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) found arthritis is common among those having heart disease. Approximately 57 percent of adults with heart disease have arthritis. In the study, about 29 percent of adults with arthritis and heart disease were inactive, compared to 21 percent of people with heart disease alone, 18 percent of those with arthritis, and 11 percent of adults with neither condition.

The study, based on combined 2005 and 2007 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System data, show that the prevalence of physical inactivity for adults with both heart disease and arthritis varied substantially from state to state--ranging from 20.5 percent in Colorado to 50.3 percent in Kentucky.

"Unfortunately, many people living with both arthritis and heart disease seldom or never exercise because they may be unsure about which activities are safe and worry about aggravating their joint or heart problems," said Janet Collins, Ph.D., director of CDC′s National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. "These fears are readily addressed by good information, consultation with their doctor, evidence-based programs, and strong social support."

Nationwide, 14.1 million adults have heart disease. Inactive persons with heart disease who increase activity benefit from improved physical function and lowered blood pressure and blood cholesterol levels. Joint-friendly activities, such as walking, swimming, and biking, and specially tailored self-management education and exercise programs are safe and can improve health for adults with both conditions.

Disease self-management classes, including exercise programs that address arthritis-specific barriers, may help adults with arthritis and heart disease. Programs proven to be effective in managing arthritis, such as the Chronic Disease Self-Management Program, the Arthritis Foundation's Exercise Program, and Enhance Fitness, are available in many communities.

For more information, visit CDC's arthritis Web site at www.cdc.gov/arthritis/intervention.

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