F: Fatigue

The fatigue that comes with arthritis has been compared to walking through thick mud, working 24 hours a day or having a 100-pound pack strapped to your back. “Fatigue has been widely ignored as a symptom even though for many people with arthritis it may be more of a problem than pain,” says Daniel Clauw, MD, director of the Chronic Pain and Fatigue Research Center at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. While fatigue may make it hard just to get out of bed, a little activity can help a lot. So can a frank conversation with your doctor, as fatigue is sometimes a symptom of an underlying medical problem such as anemia, chronic pain, medication side effects or an underactive thyroid.

G: Grapefruit Juice

Grapefruit juice is the bad boy of breakfast beverages – if you are taking certain medications.  Research has revealed some 50 medications that interact with grapefruit juice, including the disease-modifying drug cyclosporine. For some medications – including cyclosporine, the cholesterol-lowering drug lovastatin (Mevacor) and the anti-anxiety medication diazepam (Valium) – grapefruit juice slows their elimination from the body, causing them to rise to potentially dangerous levels. In others – including the allergy drug fexofenadine (Allegra) or the beta blockers celiprolol (Cardem) and talinolol – grapefruit juice blocks effects. The more grapefruit juice you drink, the more likely you are to experience these problems. But even a single glass of grapefruit juice has the potential to affect your medications for up to three days. Your best bet: Take your medications with a glass of water.

H: Heart

If you have RA or lupus, the same inflammatory process that affects your joints can increase your risk of heart disease by causing the inner linings of the arteries to swell, slowing the flow of blood. In fact, Arthritis Foundation-supported research found that women with RA are twice as likely to have heart attacks as women without the disease. What can you do to reduce your risk? Aside from working with your doctor to keep your arthritis under control, a regular walking program is a good place to start. Research shows that walking briskly for 3 hours a week – or 30 minutes on most days – reduces the risk of heart disease in women by 30 percent to 40 percent.

I: Infection

When your immune system is suppressed by arthritis or medications you take for it, germs a healthy body easily fights off can lead to serious or even life-threatening infections. To protect yourself, it’s important to get yearly flu and pneumonia vaccines, but forgo the live vaccines that can potentially trigger the diseases they are designed to prevent. When taking disease-modifying drugs that suppress the immune system, be vigilant for signs of infection – fever, chills, dry cough, nausea and vomiting, and burning with urination – and call your doctor right away if you experience them.

J: Joints

If joint pain becomes constant, interferes with daily activity and is not relieved by medication, it may be time to consider joint replacement surgery. While it’s traditionally considered a procedure for older people, advances that extend the prosthesis longevity are making it a viable option for younger people. For first-time total knee replacements, the fastest growing group of patients is in the 45-to-54 age category, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Along with the hips, the knees are the most commonly replaced joints. Other joints that can be replaced are the shoulders, elbows, fingers, ankles and joints of the feet.

K: Kids

Arthritis and related conditions affect an estimated 290,000 children under age 18. The most common form is juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA), which is characterized by the pattern of onset: polyarticular, affecting five or more joints; oligoarticular, affecting fewer than five joints; and systemic, which is accompanied by a rash and spiking fevers. As with arthritis in adults, in kids it can be chronic and require early, aggressive treatment to prevent lasting damage. Treatment for the three types is largely the same; however, research is showing certain biologics work better for different forms. For example, anakinra (Kineret) works well for systemic JIA; etanercept (Enbrel) works well for oligoarticular and polyarticular JIA; and adalimumab (Humira) has an advantage for oligoarticular and polyarticular arthritis with eye involvement.

L: Laughing

Having arthritis is no laughing matter, but feeling better may be. Research shows laughter can ease pain, relieve stress, improve lung function, burn calories and just make you feel better. So get out the Steve Martin videos, call a funny friend or peruse a book of jokes or cartoons. Feel like you have nothing to laugh about? Fake it. Research has also shown that acting happy – smiling, laughing and giggling – may affect the chemicals in your brain to make your feelings match your actions.

M: Movement

Regular physical activity has a slew of benefits, including reducing joint and muscle pain and stiffness, increasing range of motion, boosting your mood and reducing your risk of other health problems, including diabetes and cardiovascular disease, which pose a particular threat to people with inflammatory forms of arthritis. According to the CDC’s 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, you need to do two types of physical activity each week to improve your health: aerobic and muscle-strengthening. How much do you need? 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (for example, brisk walking) or 75 minutes of more vigorous aerobic activity (jogging or running) – or a combination of the two – plus activities that work all major muscle groups at least twice a week.

If 150 minutes sounds daunting, try breaking into smaller chunks of at least 10 minutes. For example, three 10-minute walks five days a week will meet your basic needs for aerobic exercise.