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Comorbidities in OA

Osteoarthritis increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and depression.

A photo of two hands in a heartshaped position holding a red plastic heart against their blue and white striped t-shirt.

People with osteoarthritis (OA) face an increased risk of developing comorbidities such as cardiovascular disease, depression, stroke, and diabetes.

Greater risk of dying from cardiovascular disease

Research on the link between OA and cardiovascular disease has shown that people living with knee OA for 10 years or more are 16% more likely to die of cardiovascular disease compared to those without OA. This predominantly applies to overweight and/or older individuals as old age and being overweight or obese are risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

The causal relationship between OA and cardiovascular disease is somewhat unclear, although a mixture of lack of physical activity, excess body weight, and inflammation in the body is believed to be the culprit. Painkillers (especially NSAIDs), which are often used to relieve OA pain, can also increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.

The negative impact of OA on mental health

Exercise is important for both your physical and mental health, regardless of what you weigh. Both healthy weight and overweight individuals with OA can easily end up in a vicious circle, as joint pain may result in lack of exercise which in turn leads to increased pain, weight gain, fatigue, and reduced joint mobility. The danger of this vicious circle is not only that it worsens OA symptoms, but it also places you in a risk group for developing other health problems.

Depression and anxiety have been observed to be more prevalent amongst OA patients. Chronic pain and reduced mobility can easily affect a person's mood and cause downheartedness. However, for some, the feeling of sadness and low-spiritedness moves on to develop into depression or severe anxiety.

Exercise may be the recommended first-line treatment for OA to relieve physical symptoms of the disease, but exercising regularly also drastically improves mental health. When we exercise, our brain releases endorphins, which act as a natural painkiller. Endorphins are often also referred to as "happy hormones" as they make us feel happier. When exercising regularly and reaping the benefits of endorphin release, it often becomes easier and more fun to perform daily tasks and activities.