Some people produce too much uric acid, while others have too much due to dietary choices. Or, as in many cases, your body may simply not be effective in eliminating enough through your urine. Whatever the reason, this substance then builds up in your blood and can lead to solid crystals forming within your joints, causing gout and its painful symptoms.
What factors increase your risk of having gout?
The following risk factors can cause gout. Some are beyond your control, but others can be addressed with lifestyle changes:
Gender and age
Generally speaking, more men than women have gout because women tend to have lower amounts of uric acid. It’s thought that estrogen plays a role in causing uric acid to be excreted by the kidneys, resulting in lower levels. That is until about age 50 or so. Once women enter menopause their chance of developing gout – is similar to men’s. After age 80, women may be even more likely to have gout than men.
Obesity, being overweight, and gout are strongly linked.
In fact, according to the Gout and Uric Acid Education Society, “An obese person is four times more likely to develop gout compared to someone with a normal body weight.”1
Losing weight, even a relatively small amount, may have a large effect on the likelihood that you will have gout. One study showed that men who lost more than 10 pounds since age 21 have a much lower risk of getting this disease.2
If you lose weight, it’s important to do it slowly. Fasting and losing weight too quickly aren’t good for your overall health and can temporarily raise your uric acid levels. Check with your doctor before starting any weight loss program.
Diet – What You Choose to Eat
Foods like meat—especially organ meats—and seafood increase the amount of uric acid in your body. If you eat a lot of these foods, you could raise your risk of getting gout. Bacon, turkey, liver, veal, and scallops cause your uric acid levels to increase by a fairly large amount. Beverages that are sweetened with fructose (especially high fructose corn syrup), such as soda and some fruit juices, also increase your body’s uric acid levels.
Drinking alcohol can increase your risk of gout. The risk is thought to increase at anything more than two drinks of liquor or beer a day. Some experts think that beer in particular raises your risk; less is known about the effect of wine. If alcohol is a part of your lifestyle, speak with your doctor to determine what may be right for you.
Diuretics (medications commonly used to treat high blood pressure) and low-dose aspirin can increase your levels of uric acid.
Other medical conditions
Untreated high blood pressure makes you more likely to develop gout. Other conditions, such as heart disease, kidney disease, and diabetes also raise your risk.
These can cause gout in some people, but it’s a very small percentage.
If you have other family members who have gout, you may have an increased risk of developing the disease.
Understanding what causes gout can help you reduce your risk factors. Losing weight slowly and responsibly, limiting your alcohol consumption, and keeping other conditions and diseases under good control can all help reduce your chances of having gout. If you do develop the disease, taking steps like these may also help make your symptoms less likely to flare up. Your doctor can help create a plan for your needs, most likely along with medications, which should help minimize gout’s effects.
2 Choi, Atkinson, Karlson, Curhan. “Obesity, Weight Change, Hypertension, Diuretic Use, and Risk of Gout in Men.” http://www.archinte.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=486491. Accessed April 11, 2015