Arthritis Month: Travis lends a hand for arthritis awareness
It’s better to be safe than sorry when it comes to your health.
That’s part of the message interior designer Debbie Travis and Dr. William Bensen of The Arthritis Society Hamilton are trying to get across to Canadians, when it comes to addressing the early signs of arthritis.
“If you wait, it takes forever to get control of it,” said Bensen. “If you attack it now, it can be prevented or stopped.”
Travis got the push to be more involved after taking a group of Canadians for a charity trek of Machu Picchu for the Arthritis Society four years ago. It was then that she realized how arthritis affects not only those who have to live with it, but those around them as well.
“When you’re hiking together and walking together you really get to know these people,” said Travis. “You learn a lot about what a scary disease it is.”
For Travis, she looks at the structure of the human body the same way she would look at the structure of a home. If you have something wrong with the foundations and walls of the home you have to tackle it. And the same goes for your body.
“Except you only get one body,” said Travis. “With a home you can always sell it or start again.”
Travis and Bensen are teaming up to urge Canadians to be aware that this disease doesn’t just happen to seniors. It can hit you at any age.
“I have patients that vary from ages 17 to 93,” said Bensen. “It’s the myth that it’s just old age, live with it and you can’t do anything about it. But that’s exactly wrong.”
Arthritis affects more than four-million people and is one of the main causes of disability in Canada, according to The Arthritis Society.
Bensen says the most common type of arthritis is osteoarthritis, which is the wearing out of the joints, sometimes with old age, overuse and or from inflammation.
“It can creep up or be very quick. All types of arthritis vary in intensity, so they’re not all the same,” said Bensen. “It has different speeds in different people.”
There’s also psoriatic arthritis, which is also common and occurs with psoriasis. It’s more like rheumatoid arthritis, except that it is considered to be more irregular and doesn’t happen everywhere in the body.
To keep the different forms of arthritis at bay, Travis, along with the Arthritis Society, suggests eating foods high in omega-3 fatty acids such as salmon, herring and tuna. Omega-3s can reduce inflammation associated with rheumatoid arthritis and psoriatic arthritis. And make sure you’re taking vitamin D and calcium.
“If you don’t have strong joints, you don’t have anything,” said Travis.
The progression of arthritis, says Bensen, can have multiple affects not only on your body, but on your social life. According to Bensen, people often feel embarrassed about it and sometimes isolate themselves from friends and family because of the disease.
“If you’re not physically strong, everything else seems to fall like a pack of cards,” said Travis.
Travis plans to use the vanity angle to get people to seriously think about seeing their doctor early if they’ve experienced or wish to prevent the disease to happening to them.
“We’re all thinking about all these things for our face,” said Travis. “Well, you could be 65 and have a face that’s beautifully ironed, but if you’re in a walker hunched over because of this disease … it ain’t very sexy.”
For the full list of Travis’s tips visit www.arthritis.ca/debbietravis. This article previously appeared in the Hamilton Spectator.