NOVEMBER 01, 2007

Cardio Exercise Also Good for Knee OA

The effects of physical activity on the knees of patients with osteoarthritis (OA) have been debated among experts for years. Some claim that exercise can promote knee OA, and others suggest that it has a protective effect. A team of researchers in Australia decided to use magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to evaluate the effects of exercise on the knees of 257 healthy adults between the ages of 50 and 79 years with no past history of knee injury or OA.

The patients were recruited from the Melbourne Collaborative Cohort Study, an established communitybased research population. They all underwent MRI scans on their "dominant knee"—the one used on the first step when they start walking. They also were asked specific questions about their exercise and walking habits and about routine activities at home and work to determine their levels of physical activity 6 months and then 7 days prior to the start of the study.

The MRI results enabled the researchers to assess the effects of exercise on the patients' knee cartilage, including any defects or loss of volume, which are linked to worsening OA symptoms. The researchers found that both past and present vigorous physical activity was associated with an increase in cartilage volume without defects. Recent weight-bearing exercise also was related to increased cartilage volume and fewer defects. The findings were published in the October 2007 issue of Arthritis Care & Research.

CDC Presents State-by-state Data on Arthritis Limitations at Work

Arthritis is the most frequent cause of disability in the United States, limiting the activities of nearly 19 million adults. According to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study, work limitation due to arthritis in all working-age adults ranges from a low of 3.4% in Hawaii to a high of 15% in Kentucky. The study, "State-specific Prevalence of Arthritis-attributable Work Limitation (AAWL)—United States, 2003," was released in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (October 12, 2007).

The data cover adults aged 18 to 64 years in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and US territories. The study examined all working-age adults in each state who experience work limitations due to arthritis and was conducted using self-reported data from the 2003 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System survey.

The prevalence of AAWL ranged from 25.1% in Nevada to 51.3% in Kentucky. Variations across states may be related to differences in prevalence of arthritis across states or to the predominance in some states of certain occupations that can worsen arthritic symptoms, such as mining, manufacturing, and agriculture.

Mind over Matter: Meditation Can Relieve RA Symptoms

Patients who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis (RA) are always on the lookout for ways to relieve their painful symptoms. A recent study has shown that an ancient method of contemplation is helping some patients find relief.

Researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine set out to determine the effect of meditation therapy on various manifestations of RA, including depressive symptoms, psychological distress, and disease activity. The researchers looked at participants in the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program at the University of Massachusetts Medical School and studied 63 adult patients with RA (average age 54 years) with no past history of psychiatric illness or other chronic pain disorders. Thirty-one patients took part in intensive MBSR therapy for a total of 12 weeks.

Researchers compared symptoms among those who participated in the therapy and those who did not, at baseline, 2 months, and 6 months. Those who underwent the therapy were found to have continued benefits at 6 months. The therapy had no physical effect on RA disease activity, however. The findings were published in the October 2007 issue of Arthritis Care & Research.

RA Risk Is in the Genes

Researchers in the United States and Sweden have found a genetic region that is linked to a patient's increased risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis (RA). The US study involved 908 blood samples from RA patients involved in the North American Rheumatoid Arthritis Consortium and samples from 1282 patients without the disease. The Swedish researchers compared 676 samples from patients enrolled in the Swedish Epidemiological Investigation of Rheumatoid Arthritis with those from 673 controls.

The samples were analyzed for small differences in DNA distributed throughout a person's genetic code that might lead to a common factor in RA patients. Both groups of investigators found a region of chromosome 9 containing 2 genes relevant to chronic inflammation. The results were published in the New England Journal of Medicine (September 27, 2007).

F A S T   F A C T : Smoking doubles the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis.