Arthritis is the number one cause of disability in our country. More than 50 million Americans are affected by this disease. The winter months can be especially hard on those dealing with arthritis. While cold weather does not cause arthritis, it can amplify aches and pains causing a disruption in every-day-life.

The two different types of arthritis are known as inflammatory and non-inflammatory, and cold weather can have an effect on both types. If joint pain becomes increasingly hard to deal with during the winter, here are five ways to help alleviate the discomfort.

Number one, eat healthy.

While your diet won’t cure your arthritis, there are certain foods that have been shown to fight inflammation, strengthen bones, and boost the immune system. Fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, mackerel, and trout are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which help fight inflammation. Studies have also found many health benefits in garlic, tart cherries, broccoli, and turmeric. Along with conventional treatments, eating a nutritious and balanced diet is one of the best ways to stay healthy and keep your joints happy.

Number two, stay active and exercise.

Exercise is considered the single most effective non-drug treatment for reducing joint pain and improving movement in patients with osteoarthritis. Exercise is a key strategy to relieve pain, improve energy, and strengthen muscles, which helps to better support our joints. Winter can pose various obstacles to getting outside for exercise. Indoor exercise options can include yoga, indoor cycling, aerobics, free-weights, and walking or running on a treadmill. Adults with arthritis with no other severe health conditions can engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity a week and two strength-training sessions a week. Be sure to talk to your doctor before starting an exercise program, especially if activity is painful for you or you have been sedentary for a long period of time.

Number three, layer up and dress warm.

Depending on where you live, winter can bring freezing temperatures and harsh weather. Layer up in warm clothing and your joints will thank you for it! Breathable, quick drying fabrics such as merino wool will keep you warm and dry on even the coldest days. If you find it difficult to keep your hands and feet warm in the winter, try placing hand and feet warmers in your gloves and boots.

Number four, take vitamin D.

Our bodies are not getting as much sunshine during the winter months, which is why taking a vitamin D supplement is important. A vitamin D deficiency can decrease a person’s pain tolerance, and can cause those suffering from inflammatory arthritis to experience more pain. There are a number of supplements with a reputation for helping reduce symptoms of arthritis, but always speak with your doctor first before taking anything over-the-counter.

Number five, maintain a healthy weight.

Unnecessary weight placed on joints will only contribute to arthritis pain. A body suffering from arthritis pain that is overweight will benefit from a healthy diet and regular exercise.  Osteoarthritis is often more painful in joints that bear weight, such as the knee, hip, and spine. Keeping your body at a healthy weight will help reduce pain, stiffness, and improve overall function.