Foot Health and Aging in Sugar Land
Medical advances since 1900 have increased life expectancy of the average
American by more than thirty years. Older persons have become an increasingly
significant proportion of our total population -- and their numbers are
growing rapidly. For example, in 1900 there were three million Americans
aged 65 or older. In the year 2000, older people outnumbered children
for the first time in history. If older people are to live useful and
satisfying lives, they must be able to remain active. Mobility is a vital
ingredient of the independence that is cherished by our aging population,
and foot ailments make it difficult or impossible for them to work or
to participate in social activities.
According to the US National Center for Health Statistics, impairment of
the lower extremities is a leading cause of activity limitation in older
people. As if foot problems weren't enough of a nuisance, they can
also lead to knee, hip, and lower back pain. The NCHS says 25% of all
nursing home patients cannot walk at all and another one-sixth can walk
only with assistance.
Mirror of Health
The human foot has been called the mirror of health. Podiatrists are often
the first doctors to see signs of such systemic conditions as diabetes,
arthritis, and circulatory disease in the foot. Among these signs are
dry skin, brittle nails, burning and tingling sensations, feelings of
cold, numbness, and discoloration. Always seek professional care when
these signs appear.
Foot Problems Can Be Prevented
Many people, including older people, believe that it is normal for the
feet to hurt, and simply resign themselves to enduring foot problems that
could be treated.
There are more than 300 different foot ailments. Some can be traced to
heredity, but for an aging population, most of these ailments stem from
the cumulative effect of years of neglect or abuse. However, even among
this population many foot problems can be treated successfully.
Whether due to neglect or abuse, the normal wear and tear of the years
cause changes in feet. As people age, their feet tend to spread, and lose
the fatty pads that cushion the bottom of the feet. Additional weight
can affect the bone and ligament structure. Older people, consequently,
should have their feet measured for shoe sizes more frequently, rather
than assuming that their shoe size remains constant. Dry skin and brittle
nails are other conditions older people commonly face. Finally, it's
a fact that women, young and old, have four times as many foot problems
as men, and high heels are often the culprits.
Observing preventive foot health care has many benefits. Chief among them
are that it can increase comfort, limit the possibility of additional
medical problems, reduce the chances of hospitalization because of infection,
and lessen requirements for other institutional care.
Studies show that care for a bedridden patient costs much more than care
for an ambulatory patient. In their private practices, foot clinics, hospitals
and nursing homes podiatric physicians are providing services designed
to keep older people on their feet.
Records indicate that amputations and other forms of surgery due to infections
of the feet, many brought about by diabetes, have been significantly reduced
in recent years because of early diagnosis and treatment. Further reduction
in this area is a goal of Healthy People 2010, a US Department of Health
and Human Services campaign endorsed by podiatric physicians, to encourage
understanding and application of preventive medical practices.
Foot Health Tips
- Properly fitted shoes are essential; an astonishing number of people wear
shoes that don't fit right, and cause serious foot problems.
- A shoe with a firm sole and soft upper is best for daily activities.
- Shop for shoes in the afternoon; feet tend to swell during the day.
- Walking is the best exercise for your feet.
- Pantyhose or stockings should be of the correct size and preferably free of seams.
- Do not wear constricting garters or tie your stockings in knots.
- Never cut corns and calluses with a razor, pocket knife, or other such
instrument; use over- the-counter products only with the advice of a podiatrist.
- Bathe your feet daily in warm--NEVER HOT-- water, using a mild soap, preferably
one containing moisturizers, or use a moisturizer separately. Test the
water temperature with your hand.
- Trim or file your toenails straight across.
- Inspect your feet every day or have someone do this for you. If you notice
any redness, swelling, cracks in the skin, or sores, consult your podiatrist.
- Have your feet examined by a podiatrist at least twice a year.