Norine Dworkin-McDaniel’s experience—she developed gout after eating too many healthy foods (read her story here)—is rare, but it illustrates an important point: Whether or not you get this condition is largely under your control. “With gout, the environmental influences are so much more important than the genetic ones,” says Chaim Putterman, MD, chief of the division of rheumatology at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City. Here, doctors’ best advice.
• If you’re overweight, drop some pounds. “Obesity is the strongest known risk factor for gout,” says Hyon Choi, MD, associate professor in medicine and staff rheumatologist at the University of British Columbia and Vancouver General Hospital.
• Drink less pop. Women who swallow just one sugary soda a day up their odds of developing gout by 74 percent, according to a study published last year in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Like purines, soda (with its high fructose content) is thought to boost uric acid to harmful levels.
• If you’re going through menopause, be especially watchful. Men are much more likely to experience gout, but that’s only because they lack the protection of estrogen (which aids the elimination of uric acid) and therefore are at risk from a younger age—30 and upward. The number of female cases rises after the estrogen decline of menopause, and by age 61, a woman’s odds of developing the condition are nearly as high as a man’s.
Left untreated, gout can lead to worsening pain and serious joint and tissue damage. While you can take medicine to prevent flare-ups, doctors will suggest you also change your diet. On the don’t-eat-much list: alcohol, sweetened drinks, red meat, seafood and high-fructose fruits such as apples, dates, peaches and plums.
The prognosis for sufferers is good: “Gout can’t be cured, but it can be controlled very well if treated and monitored properly,”says Jasvinder Singh, MD, MPH, associate professor of medicine in the division of clinical immunology and rheumatology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
Originally published in the December 2011/January 2012 issue of More.
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