Are You at Risk of Gout?
How high is your gout risk? Here, I’ve listed major gout factors that increase your risk of this terrible disease.
Gout is an inflammatory type of arthritis, accounting for around 5% of all arthritis cases.
Hyperuricemia — the condition where there are abnormally high uric acid levels in the body — is the root cause of gout. Over time hyperuricemia can lead to the appearence of uric acid crystals in the joints and surrounding tissue. The body’s natural inflammatory response to the crystals produces the symptoms associated with gout: inflammation, swelling, stiffness, redness, and great pain.
Under normal circumstances, the kidneys process and excrete excess uric acid from the body (via urine) leaving healthy levels circulating in the blood.
But some 70% of people who suffer from gout produce too much uric acid, whilst 30% can’t eliminate it from their systems effectively enough. Overproduction or underexcretion of uric acid contributse to hyperuricemia.
So what factors increase your risk of gout?
Foods contain compounds called purines that breakdown during your body’s metabolizing process, producing uric acid as a byproduct. Some foods are higher in purines than others so if your diet is high in purines then your uric acid levels can be elevated.
Too Much Alcohol
Alcohol — beer in particular — is known to cause hyperuricemia because it hampers the normal removal of uric acid from the body. It’s believed that, on average, 2 alcoholic drinks per day for men and 1 drink a day for women, can lead to hyperuricemia.
Someone who’s overweight has a higher risk of hyperuricemia, because there’s more tissue to be broken down. Cells in the human body also contain purines, so that when these breakdown uric acid is produced; so the more tissue to breakdown, the more uric acid is produced.
In addition, being overweight causes insulin resistance which impedes the kidneys’ ability to excrete uric acid from the body. And fat cells contain a protein called leptin which can also impede excretion. Reduced excretion results in higher uric acid concentrations in the bloodstream.
There’s research that suggests that 1 in 4 gout sufferers has a family history of gout. So, if you have a family history of gout or arthritis then you have a higher risk of gout than someone who hasn’t such a history.
Some medical conditions can help to increase your gout risk. These are conditions such as: diabetes, high cholesterol, narrowing of the arteries, high blood pressure, and chemotherapy, that can release a lot of uric acid into the bloodstream.
And some medications can also increase your gout risk, e.g. medications for high blood pressure, diuretics, niacin (vitamin), cyclosporine (immuno-suppressant), levodopa (for Parkinson’s disease), meds that use salicylic acid (e.g. aspirin), and so on.
Age and Sex
Gout affects men more than women, because men usually have higher uric acid levels in their bodies compared to women anyway. On average, men seem to get gout between the ages of 30 and 50.
Women don’t usually start getting gout until they are over 50. It is believed that this happens because a woman’s uric acid levels naturally rise after the menopause.
By knowing and understanding the risk factors leading to gout, you are now better able to help yourself prevent gout attacks in the future.