Gout can be downright painful and debilitating. Why? The inflammation and intense pain is caused by urate crystals that accumulate in the joints. To prevent gout, let’s first take a look at what causes these urate crystals to build up in the joints. Then, we’ll take a look at the risk factors for gout.
What Causes Uric Acid to Build Up?
Your body produces uric acid to break down purines that are naturally found in your blood and in many foods. This acid is supposed to dissolve in your blood, pass through your kidneys, and exit the body through urine. However, if there is excess uric acid or your kidneys aren’t processing enough uric acid out of your body, urate crystals build up in the joints.
What are the Risk Factors for Gout?
Diet: Foods with purines can increase the risk of gout. These foods include red meat, beer, distilled liquors, sardines, anchovies, and coffee. Sugary foods and beverages are also high in purines.
Weight: Being overweight or obese increases the risk of developing gout. Studies show that decreasing caloric intake and losing weight can lower uric acid levels. Maintaining a healthy weight can also reduce the number of gout attacks, even without eliminating purine-rich foods.
Medications and Medical Conditions: Surgery, trauma, and dehydration are all risk factors for gout. Additionally, certain medications like diuretics for high blood pressure (commonly known as water pills) and treatments for certain cancers ultimately raise the level of uric acid in the bloodstream. Some medications that lower the level of uric acid in the bloodstream, like Zyloprim and Aloprim, can also lead to a gout flare-up when first taking them. Even though these medications are used to treat gout, uric acid levels may initially increase as the medications begin to dissolve the buildup of urate crystals. Low-dose aspirin can also lead to gout attacks, and degenerative arthritis makes affected joints more likely to be the site of a gout attack.
Family History: Genetics are found to play an interesting role in getting gout. Researchers found that your risk for developing gout is twice as high if you have a first-degree relative with gout. In fact, your risk of developing gout would be twice as high as the general population. You’re also at a higher risk if you have multiple family members with gout.
While some risk factors, like genetics, are our of your hands, factors like diet and weight are more in your control.
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