Have realistic expectations about staving off the condition. Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic autoimmune disease impacting the joints on both sides of the body -- in both hands, knees and wrists, for example.The trouble starts when the body's immune system turns on itself -- attacking the cells lining the joints. It can be disabling, creating joint pain, swelling, stiffness and weakness. Because the disease remains so enigmatic and it's still not understand how much, for example, genes play a factor, it's hard to say: "This is how you prevent the disease." Yet, lifestyle measures are believed to have a positive impact.

Revamp your diet. We all know a nutritional diet and maintaining a healthy weight is good for us -- but the CDC and American College of Rheumatology also asserts that it's good for our joints. The more weight we pack on, the more strain that places on our joints. The lighter we are, the less of an impact we have on our knees.

Exercise smart. To maintain an ideal weight, execise is an important component. But we have to be careful how we exercise -- for our joints' sake. Before performing any high-impact activity, be sure to warm up and do your stretches. When you do strength training, pace yourself and use the appropriate, quality equipment. By doing so, it can have long-term positive ramifications on the health of your joints.

Minimize stress. Part of having a healthy life is controlling stress levels. It's believed that some environmental factors like stress are trigger points that can actually prompt the features of the disease or cause flare-ups such as stiffness and pain in the joints.

Be proactive. If you have a history of the disease in your family or suspect it, it's important to see your doctor right away. There are things you can do to manage the progression of the disease -- if you catch it early on. The keys are to get treated often and to combine the right meds with healthy lifestyle indicators like exercise and adequate sleep.

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