Demystifying gout

Senior Health

Gout

By pH health care professionals

You have probably heard family members, usually elderly relatives, talk about “having an attack of the gout.” You may have even talked about it yourself without really knowing what it is and why it occurs. Given all the misinformation out there about gout, and that the incidence of gout has been increasing in recent years, it’s time to demystify gout so you know how to be proactive about it.

OK, so what exactly is gout?

Gout is a type of arthritis that occurs when your body cannot get rid of an acid formed during the breakdown of certain foods such as red meat, seafood and excessive alcohol. Certain drugs like low-dose aspirin, which limits the kidneys’ ability to get rid of this acid, can also cause it. Excess of this acid -- uric acid -- in the blood is called hyperuricemia, and may cause buildup of uric acid crystals in the joints such as the big toe, wrists, fingers and knees. This uric acid buildup can cause severe pain, swelling and tenderness.

What are the health risks associated with gout?

recent study published in the Annals of Rheumatic Diseases indicates that patients with gout, especially women, have an increased risk for vascular diseases (meaning any disease affecting the circulatory system, like heart disease or strokes).  Gout may also increase your risk for hypertension, diabetes, metabolic disorders and cardiovascular disease. It is even associated with erectile dysfunction in men.

So what are some things you can you do to be proactive about gout?

  • Consider adding cherries to your diet.  Yes, research suggests that cherries may reduce the production of uric acid. 
  • At a minimum, drink at least nine to 13 cups of water a day to avoid the dehydration that may trigger a gout attack.
  • You may want to limit your intake of foods and drugs that produce uric acid, like alcohol and red meat.   
  • Walk briskly, swim or cycle for at least a half hour a day to help flush the uric acid through your body.
  • Be aware of your uric acid levels by having a blood or urine test.

Also be sure to talk with your health care practitioner if you suffer an attack of gout. Your doctor should be able to provide you with advice on how to reduce its severity and suggest lifestyle changes relevant to you that can reduce the risk of a subsequent attack.

Enjoy Your Healthy Life!

The pH professional health care team includes recognized experts from a variety of health care and related disciplines, including physicians, attorneys, nutritionists, nurses and certified fitness instructors. This team also includes the members of the pH Medical Advisory Board, which constantly monitors all pH programs, products and services. To learn more about the pH Medical Advisory Board, click here.

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