Sun, Oct 15, 2006 - Page 2 News List

Festival held to increase awareness about arthritis

ONE IN FOUR AFFECTED Elderly and middle-aged women have the highest risk for bone and joint disease, but if caught early it is easier to manage

By Max Hirsch  /  STAFF REPORTER

Lian Ho (賀連華), 34, stomped her boots to the strumming of a Spanish guitar in Tianmu Sports Park yesterday. The flamenco dancer mesmerized hundreds of park visitors with her rhythmic strutting.

Ho's gracefulness, however, hasn't come easily; the dancer has been battling arthritis for more than a decade.

swollen knees

"Years ago, my knees swelled up to the point where I couldn't dance," Ho said, adding that her disease is chronic and will never be completely cured.

Fortunately, arthritis is manageable, said Yu Chia-li (余家利), director of Taiwan's Arthritis and Rheumatism Foundation.

In partnership with the Department of Health, the foundation hosted a festival in the park yesterday to mark World Arthritis Day and raise awareness of bone and joint diseases.

According to a press release from the foundation, bone and joint diseases afflict roughly half of the world's population, with one in four Asians falling victim to them.

"The older one gets, the more one's bones and joints degenerate," said Liu Hua-chang (劉華昌), director of the Department of Orthopedic Surgery at National Taiwan University Hospital.

Liu called on festival goers to take advantage of the free orthopedic check-ups offered at the event.

early diagnosis

The earlier bone and joint diseases are diagnosed, the easier they are to manage, he said.

Chou Chang-teh (周昌德), a doctor in the Division of Allergy, Immunology and Rheumatology at the Taipei Veterans General Hospital, said that more people are debilitated by bone and joint diseases than by any other illness, including heart-related diseases and diabetes.

equal risk

Organizers were quick to point out that although middle-aged and elderly women constituted the groups with the highest risk for bone and joint diseases, the illnesses can strike both men and women regardless of their age.

Ho recommended that those who suffer from bone and joint diseases should attempt to stay limber by practicing some form of stretching or other exercise on a regular basis.

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