Being overweight puts you at risk of arthritis

Carrying a few extra pounds around your tummy isn’t just bad for your heart, it can put you more at risk of developing Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) in later life too, according to new findings.

The research presented at the Annual European Congress of Rheumatology (EULAR), showed clearly for the first time a link for women between being overweight or obese and being predisposed to developing painful joint problems.

Symptoms of this debilitating condition tend to include joint pain, swelling and stiffness, with the small joints of the hands and feet often being affected first.

Dr Asta Linauskas from University Hospital, Aarhus, Denmark, who led the large population study, said, ‘We believe Rheumatoid Arthritis should be included in the list of all the other medical conditions linked to obesity.

‘It would certainly make sense for women with a family history of arthritis to try to avoid becoming overweight.’

What are the signs your weight could be putting you at risk of arthritis?

The scientists who carried out the study came up with three criteria that highlighted women at risk.

  •     Body mass index (BMI)
  •     Abdominal obesity
  •     And a higher percentage of body fat

DEXA Body Composition Scan

Having a body scan that can accurately measure the total amount of fat that’s accumulated around your torso can provide you with an early warning that your weight might be putting you at risk of arthritis. DEXA (Dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry) scanners are used to check bone density, but certain models  are equipped with ‘Advanced Body Composition’ software that can measure body fat. Consultant Rheumatologist Professor David Reid is the UK’s leading expert on DEXA and can give you a Body Composition Scan and then interpret the results to give you a detailed projection of your future health.

Is a DEXA scanner safe?

A state-of-the-art DEXA scanner is incredibly safe as it gives far lower radiation doses than a conventional X-ray. And is a useful tool for doctors in assessing wellbeing, fitness levels as well as risk of health conditions before they arise.

A scan as a prevention measure

The size of your tummy, as well as giving an indicator of your susceptibility to arthritis, has for a while been used as a marker for doctors for increased risk of diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

Having too much fat around your stomach is a bigger health risk than having hip or thigh fat. Women with a waist circumference more than 35 inches and men with a waist greater than 40 inches are at greater risk of

This is where another mode on the DEXA scanner comes into play. As well as measuring fat distribution, it has the option of a ‘CoreScan’, which pinpoints whether this fat is visceral fat - the kind that wraps itself around the internal organs such as the liver, pancreas and intestines – or the harmless kind.

After your scan, top consultants will be on hand to interpret the detailed report that is fedback from the machine, providing a comprehensive analysis, and advice for enhancing your wellbeing and safeguarding your future health.

If you do have rheumatoid arthritis

If you do develop rheumatoid arthritis, keeping your weight down would be a sensible measure. However, according to Consultant Rheumatologist Dr Stephanie Barrett  if you do suffer from the condition, you should see help from a specialist as there are new and effective treatments for RA. "The treatment for rheumatoid arthritis has transformed," she explains. "Treatments that have been around for 50 years have been supplanted by new drugs called biological agents or anti-TNF drugs. These are injectable treatments which put the condition into remission."

How much does a DEXA scan cost?

Due to the very low levels of radiation you can self-refer for a DEXA (DXA) scan. Cost of scan varies between £150 and £270 if includes a 10-year prognostic report by an osteoporosis specialist.

Inflammation of one or more joints of the body. Full medical glossary
Abnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. Full medical glossary
A disorder caused by insufficient or absent production of the hormone insulin by the pancreas, or because the tissues are resistant to the effects. Full medical glossary
An abbreviation for dual energy X-ray absorptiometry. Full medical glossary
One of the three main food constituents (with carbohydrate and protein), and the main form in which energy is stored in the body. Full medical glossary
The section of gut, or gastrointestinal tract, from the stomach to the anus. Full medical glossary
The major part of the digestive tract. Full medical glossary
A large abdominal organ that has many important roles including the production of bile and clotting factors, detoxification, and the metabolism of proteins, carbohydrates and fats. Full medical glossary
Myocardial infarction. Death of a segment of heart muscle, which follows interruption of its blood supply. Full medical glossary
Excess accumulation of fat in the body. Full medical glossary
A condition resulting in brittle bones due to loss of bony tissue. Full medical glossary
A gland behind the stomach that produces digestive enzymes and the hormones insulin and glucagon, which together regulate glucose levels in the blood. Full medical glossary
A glandular organ that secretes digestive enzymes and hormones. Full medical glossary
rheumatoid arthritis Full medical glossary
Energy in the form of waves or particles, including radio waves, X-rays and gamma rays. Full medical glossary
The lessening or disappearance of the symptoms or signs of a disease. Full medical glossary
A type of autoimmune arthritis featuring chronic inflammation of the small joints, especially in the hands and feet, and eventually leading to joint destruction and deformity Full medical glossary
the organ or the body where food is stored and broken down Full medical glossary
trigeminal neuralgia Full medical glossary
An abbreviation for tumour necrosis factor, a protein that stimulates inflammation and causes cells to die. Full medical glossary
A type of electromagnetic radiation used to produce images of the body. Full medical glossary