U: Ulcers

If you take NSAIDs and/or corticosteroids to control your arthritis, it’s important to know the signs of gastric ulcers – sharp, persistent stomach pain; black or bloody stools, or vomit that is bloody or looks like coffee grounds – and alert your doctor immediately if you experience them. Anti-inflammatory drugs are among the most common causes of gastric ulcers, which can lead to serious problems if not treated. Potential problems include bleeding into the digestive tract and perforations in the wall of the stomach that allow partially digested food to spill into the abdominal cavity.

V: Vitamin D

Research has shown that sufficient levels of vitamin D help protect against diabetes, multiple sclerosis, RA – and even death. Your body makes vitamin D in response to sunlight on your skin. If you live in a sunny climate and regularly spend much time outdoors, your body likely makes all the vitamin D it needs. But if you live in the northern states, spend little time in the sun or always wear sunscreen when you do, you’ll need to get more D. Good food sources include canned salmon, sardines and mackerel; fortified milk and orange juice; mushrooms and egg yolk. A recent analysis of studies found adults taking supplements of 300 to 2,000 IU of vitamin D per day reduced their risk of death from any cause by 7 percent.

W: Weight

If you have arthritis – or are trying to prevent it – you have a good reason to lose or weight or maintain a healthy weight. Obesity is the No. 1 preventable risk factor for osteoarthritis, and weight gain has been linked to the development of gout. To lose a pound a month, simply cut 115 calories – less than the amount in one 12-ounce can of cola – daily. To lose two pounds, cut that calorie intake and burn an extra 115 calories daily. Twenty minutes of raking leaves, walking the dog or riding a stationary cycle at a leisurely pace should do the trick.

X: X-Ray

If you’re seeing a doctor about possible knee OA, ask for an X-ray. A recent study shows it provides just as much diagnostic information as an MRI scan for knee OA at less than one-tenth the cost. “All knees with arthritis must have a weight-bearing X-ray,” says Wayne M. Goldstein, MD, clinical professor of orthopaedics at the University of Illinois at Chicago, who led the study. “This is the best way to show arthritis.” But beware that true knee pain (as opposed to referred pain) with no X-ray findings of arthritis could signal a far less common but more serious problem that requires an MRI to diagnose.

Y: Yoga

Coming from a Sanskrit word meaning “to yoke,” yoga focuses on unifying the mind, body and spirit. But many people with arthritis practice yoga simply because it feels good. With its gentle moves, yoga can be a safe way for people with arthritis to increase physical activity; some yoga poses can even be done from a chair. While yoga can improve strength, flexibility and sense of well-being, it can also help build stronger bones without the jarring and pounding movement of weight-bearing exercises that can be difficult or dangerous for people with fragile joints.

Z: Zzzs

Nothing is quite as refreshing as a good night’s sleep, but if you have arthritis, pain or medications may make it difficult to get to sleep or stay asleep. One solution: Try changing the timing of your medications. For example, if once-a-day dose of prednisone makes you too hyper to sleep at night, making it in the morning may help. If you get to sleep at night but are awakened by pain in the wee hours of the morning, try taking a once-a-day NSAID shortly before bedtime. For fibromyalgia, taking a tricyclic antidepressant just before you nod off at night can help promote deep sleep and minimize nighttime awakenings.