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Dr. Jerome Piontek, St. Luke's Hospital

Losing weight after joint replacement surgery may improve outcomes for women

Those who have worked hard during their "younger" years and have looked forward to a comfortable and active life during retirement may face an unwelcome surprise - a life-limiting disability brought on by obesity.

The so-called "baby boomer" generation (including those born between 1946 and 1964) make up an estimated 26 percent of the United States population, and 61 percent feel like they are an average of nine years younger than their chronological age. That's great news if you have lived a healthy lifestyle and have not felt the effects of weight gain brought on by lifestyle and/or genetics.

For that population, and especially women, added pounds might equate to added burdens as they age.

According to a recent study published by JAMA Internal Medicine, obese women approaching retirement age are three to six times more likely to experience a disability that will negatively affect their ability to perform everyday tasks as they get older. In addition, their risk of experiencing a disability (e.g., knee or hip pain) increases as their level of obesity increases.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an obese adult is one who has a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher.

The good news - A study released by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons found that obese women were more likely to lose weight following joint replacement surgery, which can help improve outcomes.

Added weight can play a significant role in how your joints age and perform as you get older. The extra pounds can place extreme pressure on your joints and can lead to either the development of arthritis or the advancement of arthritis at a quicker pace. However, one study showed that knee osteoarthritis in obese women was reduced by 31 percent if they lost weight and were subsequently categorized as "overweight" versus "obese."

If you have joint pain caused by weight issues, there are some steps you can take to relieve some of the associated pain. They include adopting more healthy eating habits and exercising, although you should discuss both options with your physician before starting a new routine.

Dr. Jerome Piontek specializes in orthopedics at St. Luke's Hospital. If you have hip or knee pain, attend a free class about the latest treatment options. Visit the information page or call 314-542-4848 to register.

This article was published in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on July 10, 2014.