8 Healthy Habits for Managing Psoriatic Arthritis

The little things you do each day can have a big impact on your joints — and your overall health.

Medically Reviewed
mature man practicing water exercise to aid psoriatic arthritis
Exercising in the water is a great low-impact way to keep joints moving.Rob and Julia Campbell/Stocksy

If you’re living with?psoriatic arthritis, making certain lifestyle changes can help you manage your condition and avoid potential flare-ups. What’s more, making these changes can also help keep?psoriatic arthritis symptoms?under control.

Most of the recommendations aren’t drastic. They’re simple adjustments or additions to your routine that not only help you better manage your condition, but also improve your overall health and quality of life.

Here are eight healthy habits to adopt to help you control psoriatic arthritis, along with expert advice on how to implement each one.

1. Manage Stress

Stress can trigger a psoriatic arthritis flare, so taking steps to relieve the stress in your life can help keep symptoms at bay. Start by identifying what’s causing you stress. Then experiment with different strategies to discover which ones help you find relief. This may mean taking some time out of your day to do an activity for yourself or asking for help from a family member or friend when you’re feeling overwhelmed.

2. Eat Healthy

Sticking to a healthy diet can improve your overall health, and it can also help reduce joint inflammation related to psoriatic arthritis. There’s even some research showing that?certain foods?may either increase or decrease inflammation in the body.

Inflammatory foods to avoid include processed foods, sugar, and a high-carb diet.

Instead, focus on more of an anti-inflammatory diet. “No definitive recommendations can be made specifically for psoriatic arthritis,” says?Debendra Pattanaik, MD, an associate professor of medicine-rheumatology in the College of Medicine at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in Memphis. “However, nuts and seeds, fish oil, and foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids are anti-inflammatory and can be helpful.”

Talk to your doctor about recommended alcohol intake, which is often up to one drink a day for women, and two for men — but you may need to cut back further, as alcohol can interact with certain medications and affect your liver.

3. Stay Active

Exercising regularly can help prevent your joints from becoming stiff and painful. Water-based exercise is one of the best ways for people with any type of arthritis to stay active. Being in the water creates zero impact for your joints, so you can avoid a potential flare-up that a more vigorous activity may trigger.

Work with a physical therapist?to help determine which exercises are best for you. For example, running may be appropriate for someone whose symptoms appear mostly in their hands, while yoga might be a better fit for someone whose symptoms affect their lower extremities.

“Another important concept is ‘joint protection,’ including modifying activities to avoid unnecessary strain on arthritic joints,” emphasizes Dr. Pattanaik. “Especially when psoriatic arthritis is active, heavy-impact exercises like walking fast on a hard surface or running on a treadmill are not helpful, and lifting heavy weights is also not recommended.”

It’s important to strike a balance between exercising regularly, maintaining joint flexibility, and knowing when to rest a painful, inflamed joint.

4. Maintain a Healthy Weight

Being overweight can make psoriatic arthritis worse: Carrying excess pounds puts added stress on your joints, particularly in your hips, knees, ankles, and feet. Maintaining a healthy weight can help reduce swelling and inflammation.

“Weight loss is a key factor to minimize the load on your joints and reduce pain,” recommends Pattanaik.

Adopting a healthy diet and staying active are the best ways to help you lose weight. Work with your doctor, physical therapist, and dietitian to figure out what works best for you.

5. Don’t Smoke

A study published in March 2019 in JAMA Dermatology found that methotrexate, a drug commonly used for?treating psoriatic arthritis, may not be as effective in people who smoke as it is in nonsmokers.

Of course, smoking also increases your risk for a number of diseases, such as?lung cancer?and heart disease.?Quitting smoking?can help prevent psoriatic arthritis symptoms and flares as well as these other health complications.

6. Get Some Sleep

According to findings from a study published in 2018 in the journal Reumatologica, about 70 percent of people who have psoriatic arthritis deal with poor sleep quality, stemming from a host of issues such as inflammation and chronic pain as well as emotional factors like anxiety and depression.

Long-term sleep disruption may lead to other problems like hypertension, heart complications, and metabolism disorders, so it’s important to address your sleep habits. The Arthritis Foudation recommends aiming for seven to eight hours a night — any less than six hours of sleep each night may negatively affect your health.

Talk to your doctor about medication for pain relief to help you sleep better at night. Also consider your sleep environment:

  • Remove devices from the bedroom. The light from TVs and cellphones may prevent you from winding down properly and can affect your ability to get restful sleep.
  • Let pets sleep in their own bed. Their restless movements can disrupt your sleep.
  • Skip the nightcap (and the late-night latte). Alcohol may make you drowsy and help you fall asleep, but it can affect your sleep quality. While a morning cup of joe may help you start your day, consuming caffeine — which can also be found in tea and soda — at night can keep you awake.

Keep a sleep log and share it with your rheumatologist to help get to the bottom of your sleep issues.

7. Prioritize Your Mental Health

A higher level of psoriatic arthritis activity and pain is associated with anxiety and depression, according to a review published in 2020 in the journal Clinical Rheumatology. The review looked at 24 studies totaling over 30,000 people with psoriatic arthritis and found that depression was 50 percent more common and anxiety 60 percent more common in people with psoriatic arthritis than those without the joint condition.

Depression definitely complicates psoriatic arthritis management, as [depression] often interferes with seeking medical treatment [for psoriatic arthritis] or compliance with treatment, as well as motivation to exercise and maintain a healthy lifestyle,” says Pattanaik.

If you experience symptoms of depression or anxiety, don’t ignore it — talk to your doctor. Warning sign of anxiety and depression include:

  • Avoiding activities you once enjoyed
  • Isolating oneself
  • Persistent sadness
  • Racing thoughts
  • Negative thoughts
  • Shakiness
  • Increased heart rate
  • Tightness in the chest or rapid breathing

8. Manage Related Health Conditions

Psoriatic arthritis often goes hand in hand with?psoriasis, which affects the skin, though plenty of other health conditions are related to psoriasis, as well. “Psoriatic arthritis is commonly linked with obesity, metabolic syndrome,?coronary artery disease, and depression,” explains Pattanaik.

Gaining control of any other health conditions you have can help prevent psoriatic arthritis flares?and?slow disease progression. This may require seeing multiple specialists, such as a?rheumatologist?for psoriatic arthritis, a dermatologist for psoriasis, or a cardiologist for heart disease. Your care team can work together to find a treatment plan tailored to your individual needs and suggest lifestyle changes to help you manage your health.

Additional reporting by Nina Wasserman.

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