More than 20 million adults suffer from achy joints, according to Harvard Health. Over time, the cartilage protecting joints wears and tears, eventually leaving the bones of the joints exposed and able to grind against one another. Besides aging, prior injuries, inflammation and both excess and insufficient weight can all contribute to joint problems. Despite its prevalence, however, such a common condition as unhealthy joints can be avoided by following some simple guidelines, like the ones below.

Find & Keep a Healthy Weight

Everybody has its own healthy weight range, which is the approximate weight at which that body performs all its necessary functions optimally. Falling too far below that weight, such as in cases of low muscle mass, or exceeding that weight by too much, such as in cases of obesity, can lead to problems with joint health and stability. Bodies with low muscle mass lack the support that joints need to operate strongly and smoothly without risk of injury; bodies that are overweight can place undue strain and stress on the joints. There are many ways to maintain your healthy weight once it’s been identified. The first step, however, is to identify your own personal healthy weight. Ask your doctor to aid you with that.

Exercise Regularly & Exercise Smart

A regular program of exercise that loosens and strengthens joints can help you to keep joints healthy for a lifetime. Exercises that stretch and extend specific joints without placing undue stress or strain on them are best, such as lunges, squats and even certain weight-lifting and weight-bearing exercises. Walking is helpful for maintaining bone density, however, running could potentially exacerbate joint problems. Also, be sure to stretch and warm up before you exercise. Start lightly and don’t overdo it. Allow yourself a period of rest between intense sessions of exercise to allow the body time to recuperate and repair.

Eat Foods With Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are not only anti-inflammatory in nature, but they also play a role in the formation and subsequent wearing down of bones. In particular, they improve the mineral density of bones. Omega-3 fatty acids are found mostly in fatty fish and certain nuts and seeds, like flax.

Get Your Daily Dose of Vitamin D

Our bodies use vitamin D to absorb calcium and maintain proper levels of calcium and phosphate in the blood. When the body has insufficient vitamin D to perform these functions, it extracts the vitamin D it needs from your bones. Vitamin D plays a key role in both the building up and breaking down of bone. Muscle weakness is another consequence of low vitamin D levels, which could lead to fractures and falls as the body ages. While the best source of vitamin D is sunlight, a supplement is often required to compensate for low levels due to inadequate or insufficient exposure to the sun.  Quit Smoking Smoking cigarettes have been linked to decreased bone density, which results in a higher incidence of fractures among the smoking population. Quitting smoking may improve calcium absorption and restore a more appropriate hormonal balance for maintaining strong and healthy joints.