At this year’s EULAR 2020 E-Congress, Dr. Suzanne Verstappen, MD, presented on how lifestyle changes could benefit patients with rheumatic and musculoskeletal diseases (RMDs). Her interest in the impact of diet and exercise on RMDs stemmed from general, rather than targeted, guidelines. Basically, Verstappen questioned why we encourage all people to stay healthy to prevent illness, but why those guidelines were not always included in treatment strategies.
So, she created a task force to create lifestyle guidelines for patients with RMDs, such as:
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Systemic sclerosis
- Psoriatic arthritis
- Ankylosing spondylitis
To start, Verstappen and her team analyzed how the following aspects impacted fatigue, joint damage, disease progression, and function:
- Exercise and physical activity
- Height and weight (body composition)
- Alcohol consumption
Following the study, Verstappen developed 18 overall recommendations for patients with RMDs. Although we cannot cover all of them, these guidelines include:
- Patients should stop smoking, as it can get in the way of medication efficacy.
- Individuals should eat a healthy, balanced diet. This means reducing sugar intake, as well as high fat or junk food. If wanting to lose (or gain) weight, patients should discuss a diet plan with their doctors.
- Patients should drink mildly or moderately. However, those with gout should reduce (or stop) alcohol consumption.
- Those with RMDs should be exercising frequently. Verstappen recommends aerobic exercises (like jumping rope, jogging, swimming, or the elliptical) or strengthening exercises (like plank, weight lifting, or squats). If you’re interested in a 9-minute strengthening exercise plan, check this one out.
- Patients can remain working. There are no adverse effects related to a regular work day.
However, do not replace medical treatment with these guidelines. These guidelines are simply intended to complement medical treatment. Ultimately, the goal is to improve patient outcomes.