With concerns about the arthritis epidemic in the future, health professionals want more people to be aware of ways to reduce the risk - read on to learn about a few.

Quit smoking. There's little you can do about most risk factors for rheumatoid arthritis (RA) such as your sex (women are more likely to get it), age, or family history. But you can butt out the smokes. Smoking is the major environmental cause of RA.

Drink in moderation. A study conducted in Spain and presented at the first annual meeting of European League Against Rheumatism (EULAR) has linked moderate drinking to a lower risk of developing arthritis. People who drank 10 glasses experienced bigger benefits than people who drank three glasses. However, researchers recommend keeping your intake low to prevent the health and social problems associated with drinking.

Cut out red meat. To keep arthritis at bay, skip that juicy steak or rack of ribs. British researchers discovered that filling up on red meat may double your likelihood of developing rheumatoid arthritis. The reason is unclear; however, it may be the high collagen content in meat that provokes an immune response in people predisposed to RA.

Breastfeed your baby.  According to the World Health Organization (WHO), breastfeeding is the best way to nourish a child-but it has benefits for mom as well. A study published in the Annals of Rheumatic Disease found that women who breastfeed for long periods are less likely to get rheumatoid arthritis than women who don't breastfeed. Sticking to it for 13 months or longer may slash your risk in half

Play safe. A knee or hip injury makes you three to five times more likely to get osteoarthritis (OA). Today, many athletes wear supportive athletic gear to protect their joints (especially the knees) and avoid the wear and tear that can lead to OA. If you do get injured, make sure you start treatment as soon as possible and follow through on therapy.

Avoid occupational hazards. Jobs that involve kneeling, standing, or repetitive movements make you more prone arthritis. If switching careers isn't an option, try these tips:

  • Stay active in your leisure time; a Canadian study links lower repetitive strain injuries to participation in sports that use the upper body such as golf, hockey, or baseball.
  • Train yourself to be aware of your muscles tensing. Take frequent breaks to relax or stretch.
  • Use ergonomic or supportive devices whenever possible.

Sport high heels. For a long time wearing stilettos was considered a major culprit in knee osteoarthritis. However, British researchers discovered a link between a reduced risk of arthritis and wearing heels of any height, especially stilettos. (Keep in mind that high heels are still linked to lower back pain and many foot problems such as bunions, corns and hammertoes.)

Shed extra pounds. Being overweight is one of the biggest factors in the onset and progression of osteoarthritis in the knee. The Mayo Clinic points out that losing just a few pounds each week can relieve some pressure on weight-bearing joints and reduce pain. A sensible diet and exercise plan, along with getting adequate sleep, can put you on a path to healthier joints.

Eat more veggies and fruits. Antioxidants just keep giving and giving. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that drinking a daily glass of freshly squeezed orange juice may reduce the risk of developing inflammatory forms of arthritis. The antioxidants that have the biggest impact are the carotenoids beta-cryptoxanthin and zeaxanthin. Foods with the highest content of these carotenoids include papayas, persimmons, tangerines, peppers, pumpkins, and winter squash.