Healthy joints are key to performing daily activities such as running, walking, playing sports, chasing children or grandchildren and doing the activities you love most. So how do you ensure a long, active life free of joint pain? Here are some common questions on joint health answered by the expert orthopedic surgeons from the Joint Replacement Center at Washington Adventist Hospital.

What can I do to lower my risk for bone and joint disease?

Dexter Love, M.D.: Genetics play a role in the long-term health of your bones and joints, but there are also preventive measures you can take, such as eating a proper diet and exercising regularly. Low-impact walking and weight training provide the proper stress in your bones and joints that feeds your cartilage with nutrients and oxygen, which is important for maintaining flexibility and movement.

Christopher Magee, M.D.: Exercise and diet are also important because the more you weigh, the more strain you put on your joints. Losing even a small amount of weight can make a big difference in your joint health.

What is the difference between osteopenia and osteoporosis?

Dr. Magee: Both osteopenia and osteoporosis indicate a degree of bone loss. With osteopenia, the bone loss isn’t significant enough to cause an increased risk for fractures. Osteoporosis, however, needs serious treatment to prevent fractures and slow bone loss. Not everyone diagnosed with osteopenia will develop osteoporosis.

Dr. Love: If you have osteopenia, you can slow down bone loss by maintaining a proper diet rich in calcium and vitamin D, getting regular exercise and quitting smoking.

How do I know when it’s time for joint replacement surgery?

Dr. Magee: I ask patients, “How is joint pain affecting your life?” If it’s keeping them from the things they want to do, it’s time to discuss options. Conservative measures are taken first, such as physical therapy, medication and weight reduction, but if those don’t improve the patient’s quality of life, then it’s time to consider surgery for long-term relief.

Is the recovery from joint replacement surgery difficult?

Zohair Alam, M.D.: Many patients think joint surgery involves a lengthy recovery process that will keep them in bed and away from activity for an extended period. In reality, the specially trained care team in the Joint Replacement Center at Washington Adventist Hospital helps patients quickly move down the path to recovery following their surgery. Patients are surprised to know they can often go home after just three days. Many patients are back to their favorite activities just weeks following their surgery.