Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Tips for Healthy Feet

Healthy Feet
WALK YOUR WAY TO A LONGER LIFE

by The Foot Health Foundation of America

According to the American Podiatric Medical Association two major long-term studies confirm the beneficial effects of regular walking on a person's overall health and well-being. The first study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, followed 707 nonsmoking retired men, 61 to 81 years of age, who were in the Honolulu Heart Program. The study revealed that regular exercise walking lowered the risk of death from cancer and cardiovascular disease and - in general - prolonged life. Increasing the walking distance from just one to two miles produced even greater results. The second study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, tracked nearly 16,000 healthy men and women in a national registry of twins for an average of 19 years. Taking brisk half-hour walks just six times a month appeared to cut the risk of death by 44 percent among twins observed, and even occasional exercisers were 30 percent less likely to die than their sedentary twins.

In addition to the long-term benefit of prolonging life, seniors can experience many short-term benefits from walking. Walking:

  • Controls weight, blood sugar and cholesterol levels. A brisk walk can burn up to 100 calories per mile or 300 calories per hour. Walking is the perfect complement to a sensible diet to lose weight and keep it off.
  • Improves cardiovascular fitness and circulation. Walking gets the heart beating faster to transport oxygen-rich blood from the lungs to the muscles; and increases the size and improves the efficiency of tiny vessels that supply blood for cellular respiration.
  • Facilitates medical rehabilitation and recovery from many ailments, including heart attack.
  • Generates a sense of well-being, and can relieve depression, anxiety and stress by naturally producing endorphins, the body's natural tranquilizer.


Walking Tips for Seniors

TIP WHY HOW
Warm up and cool down. Stretching improves circulation and decreases build-up of lactic acid - the chemical by-product that causes muscles to ache. It also helps alleviate any muscle stiffness and prevents future muscle strain. As a result, you can walk further, longer and injury free. Before and after walking allow ample time to perform a few simple movements, stretching the hamstrings, calves, Achilles tendons and shins.

TIP WHY HOW
Choose proper footgear. Buying shoes is the only real expenditure necessary for walking, so don't cut corners on your shoe budget; treat your feet well! If you experience swelling in your feet, try on athletic shoes in the afternoon - when your feet are most swollen - to ensure an accurate fit. Look for a shoe that is stable from side to side; well-cushioned; enables you to walk smoothly and comfortably; and gives you enough room to wiggle your toes, yet be snug in the heel. Also, look for shoes that carry the American Podiatric Medical Association's Seal of Approval.

TIP WHY HOW
Pay attention to your feet. Changes and/or pain in the feet and ankles are not normal and could indicate a serious foot ailment or circulatory problem. Warning: Self-treatment can turn a minor problem into a major one, making fitness more difficult. Become familiar with your feet and ankles by examining them - before and after - walking. If you notice red spots, swelling, or other abnormalities, including numbness, tingling or burning, consult a podiatric physician as soon as possible.

TIP WHY HOW
Walk on soft ground. With age, the natural shock absorbers (or "fat padding") in your feet deteriorate, as does bone density, particularly in women. These factors combined make seniors prone to stress fractures. Softer ground is more foot-friendly, producing less shock than harder surfaces. If possible, walk on grass or dirt paths that are flat, even and well-manicured.

TIP WHY HOW
Avoid walking in cold weather. Cold weather causes numbness, limiting your ability to detect trauma or wounds to the feet. It also makes surfaces harder, exerting undue shock on the feet and ankles. Head to the local mall or walk at an indoor track or exercise facility.

TIP WHY HOW
If you have diabetes, use extra precaution. If you suffer from diabetes, you are prone to infection from even minor injuries. Many people with diabetes experience a loss of sensation in the feet, making it difficult to detect injury. Untreated or improper self-treatment of ailments could lead to serious, permanent damage or possible amputation. Check your feet daily for redness, blisters or injury. If you experience any numbness, tingling or have wounds or abnormalities of any kind, see a podiatric physician immediately.

TIP WHY HOW
Exercise smart. Establishing an exercise program is a huge undertaking, and even the most minimal injury could "sideline" you for days - even months. Knowing your limit and exercising with caution can ward off injuries and frustration. Set appropriate and realistic goals. Pace yourself, choose an activity you like, increase your exercise program gradually and pay attention to what your body, including your feet, tells you. Drink fluids on hot days or during very strenuous activities, to avoid heat stroke and heat exhaustion.

* The Foot Health Foundation of America recommends that you consult a primary care and/or podiatric physician before beginning a fitness program, especially if you are substantially overweight, physically inactive and become easily fatigued, and/or have a pre-existing foot condition or a family history of heart disease, poor circulation or diabetes.

How Fit Are Your Feet?
Self Assessment Quiz from the Foot Health Foundation of America

In spite of being on their feet four or more hours each day, most Americans don't give their feet a second thought until they begin to hurt. Yet the wear and tear of every day life can aggravate many foot and ankle problems, from bunions and heel pain to arthritis and shin splints. Foot and ankle health is important to overall health, well-being and mobility, and plays a major role in the pursuit of fitness. The following "How Fit Are Your Feet?" Self Assessment Quiz will give you an idea of just how healthy your feet and ankles are.

1. How much time do you spend on your feet each day?

a. less than 2 hours
0

b. 2 - 4 hours
1

c. 5 - 7 hours
2

d. 8 hours or more
3

2. How old are you?

a. under 40
0

b. between 40 and 59
1

c. 60 and over
2

3. How would you describe your weight?

a. less than 20 pounds overweight or at ideal weight
0

b. 20 - 39 pounds overweight
2

c. 40 or more pounds overweight
3

4. Have problems with your feet or ankles ever prevented you from participating in:

a. leisure/sports activities?
yes
2
no
0

b. work activities?


yes
3
no
0

5. Have you ever received medical treatment for problems with your feet and/or ankles?

a. yes
3
b. no
0

6. Do you regularly wear heels two inches or higher?

a. yes
2
b. no
0

7. What types of exercise do you engage in or plan to engage in? (check all that apply)

a. walking
1
b. field sports (e.g., softball, golf)
2
c. winter sports (e.g., skiing, ice skating)
2
d. court sports (e.g., tennis, basketball)
3
e. aerobics
3
f. running
3
g. none (if you chose answer g, skip to question 11)
0

8. Do you have the appropriate shoes for your sport or sports?

a. yes
0
b. no
3

9. Do you experience foot or ankle pain when walking or exercising?

a. rarely
1
b. sometimes
2
c. often
3
d. never
0

10. Do you:

a. exercise in footwear that is more than one year old or in hand-me-down footwear?
yes 3
no
0
b. stretch properly before and after exercising?
yes
0
no
3

11. Do you:
a. have diabetes?
yes
3
no
0
b. experience numbness and/or burning in your feet?
yes
3
no
0
c. have a family history of diabetes?
yes
2
no
0

12. Do you: (check all that apply)
a. sprain your ankles frequently (once a year or more) or are your ankles weak?
yes
2
no
0

b. have flat feet or excessively high arches?
yes
2
no
0

c. experience pain in the Achilles tendon or heel or have shin splints (pain in the front lower leg)?
yes
2
no
0


d. have corns, calluses, bunions or hammertoes?
yes
3
no
0

e. have arthritis or joint pain in your feet?
yes
3
no
0

f. have poor circulation or cramping in your legs?
yes
3
no
0

Total Score: _______________

0 - 20 points: Congratulations! Your feet and ankles are very healthy and you can maintain your active lifestyle and/or exercise regimen. With proper attention and care your feet and ankles should remain healthy; however, you may want to schedule an annual exam with a podiatric physician to ensure their long-term health. Furthermore, if you scored points for questions 4, 5, 9, 11 or 12 you should consider visiting a podiatric physician for a check-up.

21 - 40 points: Pay attention. Your feet and ankles are showing signs of wear, placing you in the moderate risk category. Although you can continue your normal activities, you should strongly consider visiting a podiatric physician for a check-up. If you participate in a rigorous exercise regimen on a regular basis or plan to - or if you scored points for questions 4, 5, 9, 11 or 12 - you should visit a podiatric physician soon to safeguard your foot and ankle health.

41 points or higher: Caution. Your feet and ankles are at high risk for long-term medical problems and you should visit a podiatric physician as soon as possible. If you exercise, you should pay particular attention to your feet and ankles until you see a podiatric physician. If you have not begun exercising, it is advisable to see a podiatric physician before undertaking any type of exercise.

Now that you've assessed the health of your feet and ankles, you are armed with knowledge that will enable you to maintain their health over a lifetime.

NOTE: Even if you scored well, this self assessment is not a substitute for a physical exam. Furthermore, if you are over 40 and have any problems with your:

* heart
* circulation
* respiration
* blood pressure
* pulse rate
* cholesterol

or if you have a pre-existing medical condition or injury, you should consult a physician before beginning an exercise program.

For more information or a referral to a local podiatric physician, call the Foot Health Foundation of America at 1-800-FOOTCARE.

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At 12:41 AM, Blogger KrishaLiva said...

Taking good care of our feet is really very important. These are really excellent tips about having healthy feet. I will definitely keep those tips in mind to have healthy feet.
-----
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