Ask Dr. Angela: Why do women suffer more from arthritis than men?

  • September 2, 2014

That’s a great question, and the answer is a bit complicated.

More than 46 million Americans have arthritis with 60 percent of them being women. White and black women are in the highest risk group with Hispanic women having the lowest risk factors.

Genetics do put you at risk for arthritis, but there are lots of other factors going on. For example, the majority of women experience arthritis in our knees and hands.

One reason for this is that our bodies are designed to have children, meaning that our tendons bend and move more easily than male joints. This makes us have more injuries, which can lead to arthritis.

Additionally, our hormonal system affects our thyroid and adrenal system. The thyroid affects our immunity and function in every cell. These female hormones have a direct impact on the cartilage that cushions the areas between our bones. This cartilage protects the bones from rubbing against one another and causing pain.

More women are obese than men. Every pound you are overweight, puts three more pounds of pressure on your knees and six pounds of pressure on your hips.

Obesity plays the biggest role in osteoarthritis, but is a factor in all arthritis because obesity creates hormone imbalance.

And estrogen loss after menopause contributes to the development of arthritis. Researchers have found that if you experienced your period before the age of 11, you have a higher risk for developing hip and knee problems that will need surgery.

So while you can’t prevent most arthritis-related disorders you can manage them.

Lead a lifestyle that includes a healthy diet and exercise. Don’t smoke. Lift carefully. Take calcium supplements.

And make sure you see your doctor because early diagnosis and intervention can help control the pain.