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Joint replacements becoming popular among baby boomers

Usually, when you think of someone having a hip or knee replacement, you think about your grandparents. But now, more people in their 50s and even 40s are having these replacements.

More knee and hip joint replacements

New research shows that there has been an increase in the amount of knee and hip replacement surgeries in baby boomers, or those born between 1946 and 1964.

In fact, knee replacement surgeries have doubled in the last 10 years and have tripled among baby boomers. Russell Flint, M.D., an orthopaedic surgeon at Piedmont Mountainside Hospital, says that these numbers are accurately reflected in the patients he sees in his practice. “Every year, more joints are replaced in this country,” he says. “We are seeing it in younger individuals as well.”

Obesity is a factor

Obesity plays a role in the increase in joint replacements, as does osteoarthritis. “Human joints are only meant to bear so much weight,” says Dr. Flint. “When overloaded with excess weight, a joint is destined to wear out.” He adds that if a person is even one pound overweight, that one pound is equal to five pounds of force on the joints.

Exercise helps knee and hip joints

While some people believe that exercise will wear out the joint, Dr. Flint says that exercise, especially when paired with a warm-up, is a good thing. “I would not advise anyone not to exercise for fear of wearing out a joint,” he says. “Even an arthritic joint benefits from exercise.”

Knee replacements are more common than hip replacements, he says. “I perform two knee replacement surgeries for every one hip replacement surgery.” Dr. Flint believes that the increase in joint replacement procedures is because it has become safer to replace joints, and people’s tolerance for pain and disability has decreased.” His recipe for good joint health: a good degree of moderate, daily activity and maintaining a normal body weight.

More than 500,000 persons in the U.S. are having knee replacements each year. To reduce and prevent joint wear-and-tear, cross train to prevent overusing certain joints, lose weight if you are overweight and take the time to warm up before you exercise.

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