Gout attacks often wake people up in the middle of the night, causing excruciating pain and tenderness. If there are measures you could take to avoid this fate, you might be anxious to do so.
Fortunately, there are several steps you can take to head off a gout attack. One of these—which was recently confirmed by a large analysis of several studies—is maintaining a healthy weight.
Researchers analyzed 10 studies that included more than 200,000 participants to examine the relationship between body mass index (BMI) and gout. Compared with those who had a BMI of 20, the risk for gout went up 55% for every 5-unit increase (BMIs of 25, 30, 35). This was the case for both men and women.1
What is body mass index (BMI)?
BMI is a number based on your height-to-weight ratio. It's intended to gauge healthy weight. Because it involves a complicated math equation, the easiest way to determine your BMI is to use a free online calculator, such as this one from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
If you are overweight, losing just a few percentage points of your total body weight can significantly decrease your health risks for everything from heart disease to some cancers. The best path to weight loss is moderate-intensity exercise (at least 150 minutes a week, per the CDC's physical fitness guidelines) and a healthy diet with controlled portions.
This goal can seem daunting, so it helps to set small, easily attainable goals and work up to them. For example, work toward a goal of spending 30 minutes doing brisk walking on 5 days a week, plus exercising with resistance bands on 2 days. You can even break it up into smaller amounts: take a 10-minute walk after lunch and a 20-minute walk after dinner.
For tips on how to add exercise to your life when you have arthritis, see Ways to Get Exercise When You Have Arthritis.
Other ways to prevent gout
In addition to maintaining a healthy weight, there are two other important steps you can take to help prevent a gout attack:
- Choose your diet wisely.
Avoid foods that are high in purines. These include meat (especially organ meats like liver), seafood, beans, and some vegetables like asparagus and broccoli.
- See: Gout Prevention Diet
- Drink less alcohol and more water.
Beer and some red wines are high in purines. But staying hydrated with water can cut gout attack risk.
- See: Gout Prevention
- "Body mass index and the risk of gout: a systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective studies." Eur J Nutr. 2014 Dec;53(8):1591-601. Epub 2014 Sep 11.