Arthritis often changes the way a woman feels about herself by altering her appearance as well as the way her body works, experts say.
"Aging is difficult as it is. When you have to deal with a disease that alters the body image, it's a lot," says Beverly Yeshion, a certified nurse practitioner with Tampa Orthopedic Clinic.
Yeshion was one of several speakers at a daylong seminar Saturday at Safety Harbor Resort & Spa called "Women & Arthritis: Take Control 2002." The event raised money for the Arthritis Foundation and addressed concerns from pain control to treatment.
Those who suffer from arthritis and other joint problems fare better if they are holistic in their approach, Yeshion says. Exercise, diet and common sense will ease pain and increase mobility. "The more active someone is, the less medicine they need," she says.
The common sense part comes in pacing. Particularly during the holidays, people with chronic conditions need to avoid the overuse that brings pain and even incapacitation.
In October, results of the first state-by-state survey of arthritis and chronic joint symptoms were released. One in three adults, or about 70-million people in the United States, are affected _ substantially more than the previous estimate of 43-million, said the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Arthritis is the No. 1 cause of disability. The survey found more women than men (about 37 percent to 28 percent, respectively) have symptoms.
Though some baby boomers may have suffered joint and cartilage damage while participating in athletics or exercise programs when younger, arthritis also may develop with aging. Reducing its severity is the goal, Yeshion says.
"Women have a tendency to be the caregivers and to put themselves second to whatever needs to be done," she says.
"I get women all the time who tell me, "I get lots of exercise taking care of my family. I clean house. I go to the grocery store.' The types of exercises I want them to do are going to be different."
Exercising in a heated pool, for example, can work specific joints as the water's buoyancy reduces strain on the back and hips. Many sufferers benefit from an exercise regimen designed by a physical therapist.
She also says the loss of a few pounds can make a big difference.
"Every extra pound," says Yeshion, "feels like seven pounds to the spine."