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Arthritis is a growing crisis in women’s health

September is Arthritis Awareness Month 

September 11, 2019 – TORONTO – Mary Brachaniec was only a decade into her career in physiotherapy when she was diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis, an inflammatory form of arthritis that affects the spine. 

At the time she and her husband were raising two young children, and the months and years after her diagnosis were a challenge. “There were times when my flares were so bad that my daughter had to crawl onto my lap because I couldn’t pick her up,” Brachaniec explains. “The only thing harder than giving up my career was missing time and experiences with my young family.” 

These days Brachaniec stays as active as possible, as she knows exercise is incredibly important to her long-term health and well-being. She tries not to look back on the things she has lost, focusing instead on giving back – as a volunteer and leading advocate for people who, like her, have had arthritis take away the life they had planned. 

Brachaniec is just one of some 3.5 million Canadian women living with arthritis, a devastating chronic disease that takes many forms. Women are more likely to develop arthritis than men, which is why this September the Arthritis Society is marking Arthritis Awareness Month by bringing extra attention to the impact of arthritis on Canadian women. 

“We are witnessing exponential growth in the numbers of Canadians living with osteoarthritis (OA), especially among women” says Dr. Gillian Hawker, Rheumatologist and Clinician Scientist at Women's College Hospital at the University of Toronto. “Twice as many women as men are disabled by painful OA, since they generally live longer and with fewer social and financial supports. If we don’t get these people diagnosed and treated, the pain stops them from moving, making the disease progress even faster and putting them at risk for other serious health problems like heart attacks and stroke.” 

The Arthritis Society is shining a light on the issue of arthritis and women’s health at www.arthritis.ca/women, connecting women with the resources they need to better manage their condition so they can live a full and rewarding life - with their arthritis. 

“This new section on our website provides resources and links aimed at empowering women facing this disease,” says Arthritis Society president and CEO Janet Yale. “There are educational articles, interactive tools and research highlights. There are also inspirational stories from other women across the country, so women realize they don’t have to face this disease alone: we’re all in this together.” 

WOMEN & ARTHRITIS – FACTS AND FIGURES  

  • While anyone can develop arthritis, women are disproportionately impacted: nearly 60% of Canadians adults with arthritis are women.​ 
  • Among Canadian women, 1 in 4 (23%) have arthritis (vs. 1 in 6 men, or 17%)  
  • This means that 3.5 million women are living with the devastating effects of this disease today –a number set to grow to over 5 million women by 2040  
  • In 2016, more Canadian women reported living with arthritis than asthma, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and stroke combined. 
  • Arthritis often affects women in the prime of their lives – while they are working, raising families and wanting to remain active and healthy. Over half of Canadian women with arthritis are under 65. 
  • The toll is significant: research suggests women with arthritis report higher levels of sleep difficulties, disability and depression (compared to men living with arthritis, or women living with other chronic diseases). 
  • More Canadian women than men have knee and hip replacement surgeries for arthritis. 

Though there is no cure for arthritis, there are steps women can take to self-manage their condition, reduce the impact of their symptoms and maximize their quality of life.  If you have arthritis, or think you might, visit arthritis.ca/women to explore the tools and resources available to help you understand your options. 

Even if you don’t have arthritis yourself, you know someone who does: be an ally, be a supporter, and understand that what they’re going through is real, and impacts their lives more than you know.  

If arthritis was cured tomorrow, Brachaniec says she would get involved with sports again and travel more with family. “I’d do more of what I do already, but more actively. Arthritis may have forced me into a detour, but it won’t stop me from living my life.” 

About the Arthritis Society 

The Arthritis Society is a national health charity, fueled by donors and volunteers, with a vision to live in a world where people are free from the devastating effects that arthritis has on lives. Begun in 1948 with one very clear goal – to alleviate the suffering of people crippled by arthritis – that same volunteer-led passion carries on today in communities across Canada. Through the trust and support of our donors and sponsors, the Arthritis Society is Canada’s largest charitable source of investments in cutting-edge arthritis research, proactive advocacy and innovative solutions that will deliver better health outcomes for people affected by arthritis. The Arthritis Society is accredited under Imagine Canada’s Standards Program.  For more information and to make a donation, visit arthritis.ca. 

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For further information or to arrange an interview, please contact: 

Douglas Emerson 
tel: 416-979-7228 ext. 3348 
cell: 647.706.0440 
email: demerson@arthritis.ca 

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