There are no current guidelines to reduce your risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis (RA) because the exact cause is not known. Managing certain RA risk factors may help. Steps include:

  • Quit smoking—When you quit smoking, the body begins to repair itself almost immediately. Increased RA risk is associated with more years of smoking.
  • Maintain a healthy weight—Obesity (primarily in women) may be linked to:
    • Higher overall risk of RA
    • Earlier onset of RA, generally before 55 years of age
    • Increased risk of RA when overweight at 18 years of age
  • Drink alcohol in moderation—Some studies have suggested that moderate alcohol consumption is associated with reduced risk of RA. Moderate alcohol intake means 2 drinks or less per day for men, and 1 drink or less per day for women. Choosing not to drink alcohol is also acceptable.

Revision Information

  • Finckh A, Turesson C, et al. The impact of obesity on the development and progression of rheumatoid arthritis. Ann Rheum Dis. 2014;73(11):1911-1913.

  • Lee J, Taneja V, et al. Cigarette smoking and inflammation: Cellular and molecular mechanisms. J Dent Res. 2012;91(2):142-149.

  • Rheumatoid arthritis (RA). EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated April 10, 2014. Accessed October 31, 2014.

  • Sugiyama D, Nishimura K, et al. Impact of smoking as a risk factor for developing rheumatoid arthritis: a meta-analysis of observational studies. Ann Rheum Dis. 2010;69(1):70-81.