There’s no question that aches and pains are a part of life, from headaches to back pain to that stubbed toe that has you seeing stars. So it can be surprising when what seems like everyday discomfort turns out to be something more serious. For Beverly Hills, 90210 star Jennie Garth, a diagnosis of early-onset osteoarthritis came as a shock, after she noticed stiffness in her fingers and hands when she transitioned from a sitting position to standing up.
Garth, who got her diagnosis at the age of 47, is far from alone. Verywell Health reports that over 22 percent of adults in the United States suffer from arthritis (or another rheumatic condition), and about 30 percent of them are between the ages of 45 and 64. In fact, arthritis is “the most common cause of disability in America,” reports the site. Still, Garth was taken aback by the diagnosis. Read on to find out what she thinks might have caused her condition—and what she’s doing to stay as pain-free as possible these days.
READ THIS NEXT: This Was Bruce Willis’ First Sign of Aphasia, Coworkers Say.
“The most common types of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis,” explains the Mayo Clinic. There’s a difference between the two types. “While rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease in which the body’s own immune system attacks the joints and causes inflammation, osteoarthritis is a much more mechanical disorder,” reports CreakyJoints.
Garth was diagnosed with osteoarthritis, which causes cartilage to begin to break down. Once this process starts, “the underlying bone begins to change,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). “These changes usually develop slowly and get worse over time… In some cases it also causes reduced function and disability; some people are no longer able to do daily tasks or work.” The CDC cites pain, stiffness, and swelling as common symptoms of osteoarthritis.
Garth had been experiencing discomfort in her knees, hips, and other areas of her body. “[I] wondered what was going on,” she told People about going to see her doctor. “I was shocked to hear the word arthritis come out of his mouth, because I kind of associate arthritis with… I’m not old enough to have arthritis. Let’s put it that way. But yeah, you can have arthritis at any age and I wasn’t really aware of that.”
As Garth alluded to, arthritis is commonly thought of as something that only affects older people. However, according to website Versus Arthritis, the condition “can affect people of all ages—even children and teenagers.”
“I was like, I’m too young for arthritis,” Garth told Insider. But her outlook after the diagnosis stayed positive. “It was just a new, interesting development in my maturing,” Garth said.
For more health news sent directly to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.
The Cleveland Clinic reports that there are over a hundred types of arthritis, and that the different types have different causes. However, “You may develop arthritis if you have a family history of arthritis, have a job or play a sport that puts repeated stress on your joints, [or] have certain autoimmune diseases or viral infections,” their experts say, noting that other risk factors include obesity, smoking, and failing to get adequate exercise.
In addition, “It’s very likely there is a genetic component to arthritis,” rheumatologist Abrahim Syed, MD, told the site. “The exact role of genetics is still not well known.” The Cleveland Clinic notes that approximately 40 to 60 percent of osteoarthritis cases have a genetic component, “with a stronger link for hand and hip cases.”
Garth thinks the reasons behind her early-onset arthritis are twofold, telling People that “as someone who’s always been active,” her many years of physical activity “may have taken a toll” on her joints. She also explains that, “I started talking to my mom and other members of my family, finding out that they suffer from it as well.”
Since her diagnosis, Garth has approached her condition in various ways. In addition to partnering with an over-the-counter topical remedy that can help with arthritis pain relief, Garth has a new wellness routine. “I start every day with some beautiful, bold berries, oatmeal, and some antioxidants,” she told website NewBeauty. “I’ve been working with a weight-lifting trainer three days a week, which I think is really important to keep our bodies strong.”
The actor said she also tries to spend as much time as possible outdoors. “Being in nature is a huge part of wellness, mental wellness, and mental well-being for me.”