Lifestyle Choices, Arthritis and Heart Health - What You Should Know

September, 2022

Learn how certain lifestyle behaviours can impact your arthritis and heart health.


Smoking is a main risk factor for arthritis, making up around 20% of the risks.  Research has shown that current smokers had more pain and were more likely to have cartilage loss and joint damage than non-smokers.

Smoking can contribute to less effective treatments for conditions like back pain, osteoarthritis, and ankylosing spondylitis. Smoking is also a risk factor for complications during or after surgery. The complications can include slower wound healing, risk of of infection, and drug interactions.

Smoking also raises blood pressure, lowers HDL (good cholesterol), and accelerates plaque build-up in arteries. It is a major risk factor for heart disease. Exposure to second hand smoke can cause heart disease, heart attacks and strokes in non-smokers.

Quitting smoking or minimising exposure to second hand smoke is the best way to reduce your chance of having heart disease.


Studies have identified that a large intake of alcohol is associated with vulnerability to arthritis. An individual who drinks too much alcohol can damage their liver and kidneys. This can lead to body-wide inflammation which can then inflame areas with arthritis. 

Smoking and alcohol intake does not only affect arthritis, but also can affect your heart and cardiovascular system and put you at a greater risk of developing heart disease. When you are drinking alcohol, it can increase your heart rate and blood pressure. When people drink large quantities of alcohol for extended periods, it can lead to ongoing increased heart rate, high blood pressure, weakened heart muscles and irregular heartbeat.

Drinking alcohol may also impact certain arthritis medications, The best way to know if drinking alcohol, and how much, is safe for you, is by speaking with your treating doctor.

Healthy Lifestyle Behaviours 

Below are some ways you can improve your heart health and arthritis symptoms.

#1. Exercise

  • Exercise is not only beneficial for your heart health, it is one of the most readily available and low cost treatments for people with arthritis. In fact, exercise is considered the most effective non-drug treatment for the pain associated with arthritis. 
  • Exercise can aid in weight loss, blood pressure and cholesterol reduction, and diabetes management.
  • However, exercise can be challenging for some people with arthritis as it is difficult to exercise when you are in pain. The best way to overcome the barrier that prevents you from exercising is to find a fitness program that suits your abilities, seek advice from your doctor, and start slowly.
  • Also, aerobic and resistance exercise training for arthritis patients is effective in improving overall wellbeing, increasing muscle strength, and significantly improving physical function without worsening disease activity. It is likely to reduce cardiovascular risk and should be part of a healthy lifestyle.

For more information on exercise and arthritis, read our range of free articles here

#2. Consume a Healthy Well Balanced Diet

  • Eating healthy is also important for preventing or managing arthritis. The best diet for arthritis is a healthy, balanced one to maintain your general health and prevent other medical problems.
  • The Mediterranean diet is one of the most researched types of diets. It has shown to reduce our risk of a range of chronic health conditions (like dementia, heart disease, and some cancers), and may also help in managing some mental health conditions. 
  • Mediterranean-style diet includes a range of foods from the different food groups. This includes plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds, and olive oil. It also includes fish and wholegrains, and moderate amounts of lean red meats and dairy. 
  • This type of diet is high in anti-inflammatory foods which may help to reduce inflammation in the body.

For more information, read our free infosheet on healthy eating and arthritis

How Arthritis Queensland can help

Always talk to your doctor and/or health professional before starting an exercise program. A physiotherapist or exercise physiologist can suggest safe exercises and make sure you are doing your exercises correctly


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