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Lifestyle changes can help slow the progression of rheumatoid arthritis and return you to your normal level of functioning. They include:

  • Exercise
  • Appropriate rest

It is important that you eat a healthy diet. Be sure you get adequate amounts of calories, protein, and calcium. Talk with your doctor or pharmacist to see if you need to avoid alcohol.

There is evidence that omega-3 fatty acids may help reduce the inflammation associated with RA. Omega-3 is found in fatty fish and certain plant seed oils. Talk with your doctor to see if these oils would be beneficial to you.

Reasonable, careful exercise can help improve mobility and flexibility. Exercise can strengthen your muscles, which may help keep your joints more stable. Consult your doctor before beginning an exercise program. You will need to tailor your exercise program to be protective of the joints that are affected by rheumatoid arthritis. You may be advised to consult an exercise physiologist or physical therapist to help you design a safe exercise plan.

It is important that you get appropriate rest, especially when the disease is active. It is also important that you stay as active as you possibly can. Talk to your doctor about how to strike a balance so that you are well rested, but still getting adequate exercise.

Always contact your doctor if:

  • Your symptoms do not improve with the recommended changes
  • Your symptoms worsen
  • You develop any new symptoms

Rheumatoid arthritis. Arthritis Foundation website. Available at: http://www.arthritis.org/conditions-treatments/disease-center/rheumatoid-arthritis. Accessed July 24, 2013.

Rheumatoid arthritis. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases website. Available at: http://www.niams.nih.gov/Health_Info/Rheumatic_Disease/default.asp. Updated April 2009. Accessed July 24, 2013.

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA). EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what. Updated July 2, 2013. Accessed July 24, 2013.

Last reviewed June 2013 by Michael Woods, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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