A surprising jump in the number of Americans hobbled by arthritis may be caused by obesity, health experts say.
About 22 percent of U.S. adults have been told by a doctor that they have arthritis, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported. The statistic comes from national telephone polling of tens of thousands of adults in 2007 through 2009.
That translates to nearly 50 million people with the joint disease. It’s also roughly the same percentage with arthritis as reported in a 2003-2005 study.
But there was a significant jump in adults who said their joint pain or other arthritis symptoms limited their usual activities, to 9.4 percent from 8.3 percent. That means more than 21 million adults have trouble climbing stairs, dressing, gardening or doing other things, up from less than 19 million only a few years before, the CDC researchers estimated.
That jump was “more than we would have expected,” said Dr. John Klippel, president of the Atlantabased Arthritis Foundation.
Klippel said the increase probably was due mainly to baby boomers, who are at an age when they are more likely to suff er osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis. It breaks down cartilage and causes pain and joint stiff ness.
He added that a complicating factor is high rates of baby boomers who are overweight and obese. Extra weight puts more pressure on arthritic joints, making the problem worse, he said.