Can you prevent osteoarthritis in your knees and hips?

Hip and knee osteoarthritis

Written by: Jonine Möller, M.Sc. in Sport Science

Osteoarthritis is a chronic joint disorder that affects millions of people worldwide. It is characterized by gradual wear and tear of the cartilage, the soft cushioning material between bones, leading to pain, stiffness, and reduced mobility. While age, obesity, injury, and repetitive joint use are some of the well-known risk factors for developing osteoarthritis, recent research has shown that genetics also play a significant role in the development of the disease.

Studies have identified several genes associated with increased hip and knee osteoarthritis risk. For example, the gene GDF5 has been found to increase the risk of developing knee osteoarthritis by up to four times. Another gene, COL11A1, has been linked to hip osteoarthritis. Additionally, certain variations in the genes responsible for cartilage and bone development have increased the risk of osteoarthritis in both the hip and knee joints.

Studies on identical twins further support the role of genetics in the development of osteoarthritis. These studies have shown that if one twin has osteoarthritis, there is a higher likelihood of the other twin developing the disease, suggesting a strong genetic component.

Identifying specific genes associated with osteoarthritis is a major step forward in understanding the underlying mechanisms of the disease. This knowledge has the potential to inform the development of targeted therapies that address the specific genetic causes of osteoarthritis in an individual.

It is important to note that genetics is just one part of the complex picture leading to osteoarthritis development. Thus, the presence of genes that add risk should serve as motivation to act preventatively. Lifestyle factors, such as obesity and physical activity, and environmental factors, such as joint injury, also play a crucial role in developing the disease.

Individuals with increased genetic susceptibility to osteoarthritis should maintain a healthy weight and muscle strength (especially of the hips and thighs). Walking and running movement patterns, balance, and stability of the knee are also crucial - an exercise rehabilitation specialist can assist with these factors. 

In conclusion, the contribution of genes to the risk of hip and knee osteoarthritis highlights the importance of considering genetic and environmental factors in managing the disease. It is important for individuals to take steps to reduce their risk of developing osteoarthritis, such as maintaining a healthy weight, engaging in regular physical activity, and avoiding joint injuries. By taking these preventive measures, individuals can help to reduce their risk of developing osteoarthritis and maintain their joint health into their golden years.


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