Swollen Feet: Symptoms, Causes, and Prevention

“Morning and Evening Feet” by Hope and Megan licensed under CC BY 2.0
“Morning and Evening Feet” by Hope and Megan licensed under CC BY 2.0

Swollen feet and ankles – also known as edema – actually occurs quite often in people. For people in good health, swelling in the feet and ankles can occur occasionally and is easily addressed by elevating and resting the feet, reducing the blood flow to these swollen extremities.

Swelling in the feet and ankle have a multitude of minor or temporary causes which can be a result of standing or walking for extended periods, as well as sitting for lengthy periods of time due to travelling. Other factors that can influence swelling is diet; salty foods are a major caused of edema as it causes water retention in order to dilute the level of salt in the body. Other factors that may cause foot, leg, and ankle swelling is being overweight as well as increased age.

Swelling is a result of fluid build-up in the areas between the cells in the body. The body is actually having difficulty fighting gravity and recirculating blood and fluids back up the legs toward the heart and through the lymphatic system. This build-up of fluid causes the feet, ankles and even legs to swell.

Leg WedgeIn minor cases of temporary swelling that are not accompanied by other symptoms, the first line of treatment is elevation. Elevating the legs above the heart helps fluid to flow away from the legs not only using the body’s natural fluid transport system but also by the assistance of gravity. Elevation of the legs also helps to reduce pressure on the knees, calves, thighs and lower back. One device that helps with elevation is a leg wedge – use during sleep – as it can be highly effective in the reduction of swelling.

Compression SocksOther health tools that can aid in the reduction of swelling include compression stockings which helps with temporary relief for swelling by providing graduated compression on the foot, ankles, and legs to aid in circulation. Compression socks are also an excellent option for people that spend extended periods of time standing or sitting. They not only help to prevent and/or reduce swelling but also help to reduce fatigue in the lower extremities.

Tips to Help Prevent and Reduce Minor Swelling

  • Wear properly fitting shoes and socks that don’t cause excess binding
  • Don’t wear tight clothing that can restrict blood flow in the legs
  • Avoid prolonged periods of standing
  • Walk regularly to improve muscle activity and circulation
  • Take breaks when travelling to stand and move around
  • Avoid putting weight on the feet when sitting
  • Drink plenty of water and limit salt intake
  • Maintain a healthy body weight

Swelling of the lower extremities which occurs with other symptoms may be a sign of more serious health problems affecting the heart, kidney, liver, or blood vessels. A physician should always be consulted regarding health issues.

Be sure to consult a physician if:

  • Increase in the swelling of one or both legs
  • Redness occurs with swelling
  • Swelling occurs with pain

It is of utmost importance to pay attention to your feet. There are checks and balances in the body that help circulation and feet do not simply become swollen on their own. If certain activities may be causing swelling, it might be best to stop those actives altogether. A simple change in lifestyle and diet can improve overall health as well as prevent other f0ot related problems.

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3 Huge Benefits of Walking for Diabetics

WalkingWalking is a simple form of exercise that everyone in good health can perform but the benefits of walking for people with diabetes is huge! Not only is it one of the most popular physical activities for people with diabetes but it is also the most widely recommended because of its low impact on joints but also because it is readily available to anyone – it requires no special equipment and can be performed just about anywhere!

A steady regimen of walking – thirty minutes to an hour each day – can bring great results in lasting health benefits as well as helping to control diabetes. Below are three health benefits for managing diabetes that are a result of establishing a regular walking routine.

1. Better Glucose Control

Physical activity such as exercise helps muscles to absorb sugar in the blood. This prevents glucose from building up in the blood stream which can be detrimental to a diabetic. Although this effect can last for hours and even days, it is not permanent which is why implementing a regular walking routine is a great option for continued control of blood glucose levels.

2. Improved Cardiovascular Health

People with diabetes are much more susceptible to heart disease. In fact diabetics are at least twice as likely to have heart disease or suffer from a stroke, compared to someone who does not have diabetes 1. Walking helps to improve cardiovascular function which in turn helps to reduce the risk of heart disease.

3. Weight Management

Incorporating regular walks into a daily routine is an effective way of managing weight. Pairing exercise with a good diet helps to lower weight and also reduce other health risks.

Consult a Health Care Provider!

Before starting any new exercise regiment, a health care provider should always be consulted – especially for diabetics – to make sure it’s okay to increase activity levels. An additional concern for people with diabetes is foot problems so a consultation with a podiatrist might also be in order before starting a new exercise regiment.

Get Walking!

Once the go-ahead has been given, start by taking it slow. A major point of emphasis when starting any new exercise regiment is to avoid injury. Another key point is to make sure that walking becomes a part of the daily routine in order for long term improvements in health. The optimum walking duration is about forty-five minutes to an hour at five to seven days a week; remember to gradually build up the duration and frequency of walks in order to prevent injury for long term success.

Other recommendations to help with motivation and maintain the new regiment are walking with other people such as family members and friends. Another suggestions is joining a local walking group or a Meet Up; this also allows for social accountability and encouragement among peers, increasing the likelihood that walking becomes part of a daily routine.

So what’s the hold up? The only thing that is preventing improved health as a diabetic is ourselves; take action towards a better you today!

1 http://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-topics/Diabetes/diabetes-heart-disease-stroke/Pages/index.aspx#connection

Fish and Diabetes

"Salmon" by Camilo Rueda Lopez
“Salmon” by Camilo Rueda Lopez licensed under CC BY 2.0

Fish is one of my favorite proteins to eat – it’s flavorful, full of nutrients including healthy fats, and easy to prepare. In fact diabetes experts recommend eating fish to improve cardiovascular because of the omega-3 fatty acids which have been show to decrease the risk of arrhythmia (abnormal heartbeats) which can actually lead to sudden death.

If you haven’t had any experience with fish other than the frozen fish sticks at the super market, you’ve definitely been missing out! Fish does not require a lot of work to taste fantastic – a some herbs here and a dash of seasoning there and the natural flavors blend to make fish a great option for a diabetic diet!

Why Fish is Such a Great Choice for Diabetics!

Most fish have low amounts of unhealthy saturated and trans fat, as well as cholesterol. Instead the fat that it does contain is a natural source of heart-healthy omega-3, unsaturated fat which helps to lower total cholesterol as well as LDL cholesterol in the blood. Another benefit for eating fish is that the protein is of high quality. Fish also lacks any carbohydrates so it will not cause a sudden spike in blood glucose. Also, most fish is cooks quickly and is an ideal choice for a quick and easy meal that everyone will enjoy.

How Many Servings of Fish Should I Eat?

It is recommended by the American Heart Association to eat fish high in omega-3 at least twice a week, with each serving being about 3.5 oz after cooking. Fish is a great replacement for red meat and poultry.

One caveat however is that larger sea fish should be limited because of the mercury levels. For women that are pregnant or breastfeeding, should limit their intake of fish that have high levels of mercury. The great thing however is that there is still a large selection of fish types that are low in mercury while still being high in omega-3, including salmon, anchovies, herring, trout, sardines, and mackerel!

One of my favorite ways to prepare fish is with a lot of Asian influence. I found a recipe on YoutTube that gives a quick rundown and explanation for a healthy, steamed white fish that packs knockout flavor! Full recipe was taken from Special Fork.

Steamed Fish with Ginger and Green Onions

Ingredients
1 fish filet (3/4 to 1 lb)
2 tbsp soy sauce (substitute for light soy sauce if desired)
1 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tsp sugar (optional)
2 cloves of garlic, minced
Fresh ginger, thinly cut lengthwise
Green onion, thinly sliced diagonally
3 tbsp olive oil or sesame oil (optional)

Directions
1. Add water to a steamer pot that is big enough to fit the fish filet
2. Cover steamer pot and heat over high, bringing the water to a boil; reduce heat until water is at a low roll
3. Place fish on a heatproof plate
4. Small bowl, combine soy sauce, oyster sauce, sugar (optional), and garlic; mix well and drizzle over the filet. Sprinkle with ginger and green onion.
5. Place fish filet and plate into the steam and steam for 8-10 minutes until the fish is no longer translucent. Ladle sauce over the fish

Optional
Heat in a pan 3 tbsp of olive oil and then pour over the fish – CAREFUL – the oil and liquid will splash! This adds extra flavor!

The Incredible Edible Egg….and Diabetes

Egg
“Egg” from Steve Johnson licensed under CC by 2.0

Eggs are one of the most nutrient rich foods available; it’s amazing that a whole egg contains all the nutrients to form a multi-celled organism (chicken) from a single cell! I personally love eating eggs because they are a great source of protein and can be prepared so many different ways while also being the main ingredient in so many different dishes!
Unfortunately, eggs have received negative press previously because of the whole debacle of cholesterol. Egg yolks are packed full of cholesterol; in fact one large egg (50 g) contains 187 mg of cholesterol which is sixty-two percent of the daily recommended cholesterol.

Cholesterol unfortunately has a negative connotation that is undeserved with the belief that ingesting too much cholesterol will cause a sharp increase in cholesterol levels. Fortunately this isn’t the case as the body is a miraculous thing and is able to adapt. Cholesterol is typically produced in the liver but when cholesterol consumption increases, the liver naturally produces less cholesterol causing the total amount in the body to stay relatively consistent.
(Reference 1, 2, & 3).

Studies have also shown there to be a positive effect on the body when consuming more eggs:

In fact a few years ago a study stated that eating four eggs a week can actually reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes by more than a third! The study revealed that egg consumption was associated with a lower risk of the disease as well as lowering blood sugar levels. This study consisted of 2,332 men aged between forty-two and sixty and it was found that those who ate at least four eggs per week had a thirty-seven percent lower risk of having diabetes compared to the men who rarely or never ate eggs. Those that did include eggs as a regular part of their diet also showed lower blood sugar levels without seeing a sharp rise in cholesterol levels. Research however says that eating more than four eggs a week did not provide any boost in protection. The study also notes that’s they did not take into consideration how the eggs were cooked however boiling, scrambling, and poaching eggs are considered to be the healthiest options while frying can actually increase cholesterol intake up to fifty percent.

Eggs are a great food choice because they are readily available, affordable and provide a great source of nutrients including high-quality proteins, fatty acids, minerals, and vitamins while also having several bio-active compounds that are known to have anti-inflammatory properties. One of my favorite ways to prepare eggs is by poaching them and I’ve included a quick recipe below.

Simple Poached Egg

Ingredients
Salt
Vinegar
Eggs

Directions
1. Bring a pot of water to a boil
2. Add a table spoon of vinegar to the boiling water – this helps to coagulate the egg
3. Stir the water to create a gentle whirpool – this helps the egg white wrap around the yolk
4. Turn off the heat, cover the pan and set a time for 5 minutes allowing the egg to poach
5. Crack open the egg and slowly pour it into the swirling water
6. Remove the egg with a slotted spoon or spatula, serving immediately

Take a look at my main man Alton Brown as he shows use how to properly poach an egg!

Why Your Diabetic Feet Matter!

Diabetes has a lot of detrimental effects on the body and even when properly treated and managed can still lead to a variety of complications such as heart disease, kidney disease, retinopathy and neuropathy. It isn’t common knowledge but diabetes is the leading cause of lower extremity amputation – in fact the National Health Service of the United Kingdom explains that people with diabetes are fifteen times more likely to face amputation compared to other people without the condition. Foot problems are the most common reasons for hospitalization of diabetic patients.

Foot problems occur most frequently when there is nerve damage, also known as neuropathy. Neuropathy causes a tingling pain which a lot of people refer as a burning sensation or a sharp stabbing pain, as if being pricked by thousands of needles. Diabetic neuropathy also causes loss of feeling in the foot – this is extremely dangerous because an injury to the foot can occur and the person would not be aware of it. A person could be walking with a pebble in their shoe the entire day without knowing and this could easily lead to an open sore; blistering can also occur from wearing shoes that are too tight and a diabetic patient would not be aware of it. If a patient is unaware of the foot injury, it could easily lead to infection and eventually gangrene which would result in the amputation of the infected site to prevent any further complications.

Although this may sound terrifying, proper diabetes management and foot care can help prevent foot ulcers. Improved diabetes care and management is one of the predominant reasons why rates of lower limb amputations have decreased by more than fifty percent in the past twenty years, as stated by the Mayo Clinic.

Proper foot care is a must in order to prevent lower extremity amputation in diabetics – listed below are some excellent tips for proper diabetic foot care:

Daily inspection of your feet is the biggest preventative measure! Check for any blisters, cuts, cracks, or sores, as well as tenderness and swelling. Make sure to also check the sole (bottom) of the feet – this can be done with a hand mirror or with someone’s help.

Washing feet daily sounds simple enough but is extremely important because it helps rid the feet of fungus and bacteria. Make sure to use lukewarm water as hot water may cause burns which can lead to more complications. Also be sure to dry the feet, especially between the toes; moisture can lead to fungus and is also a prime environment for the growth of bacteria. To ensure that feet stay dry, use talcum powder between the toes while moisturizing the tops and bottoms of the feet.

Schedule regular foot checkups with your doctor or podiatrist. They can help inspect your feet for signs of nerve damage, circulation issues and any other related foot problems. They can also help to remove calluses and even trim problem toe nails.

Diabetic Socks
“Roomy Socks” from Diabetic Shoes HuB licensed under CC by 2.0

Socks are very important – never go barefoot, even around the house! When choosing socks, make sure they are not constrictive and are made of fibers that pull moisture away from the skin such as cotton and viscose. Many diabetic socks are constructed with metal fibers such as copper, silver and gold which prevent the growth of bacteria. More information can be found here.

Shoes that fit properly also play a huge role in protecting the feet. Diabetic shoes are available in multiple widths and sizes to fit specific foot needs and they are also able to fit prescription orthotics if more support is needed. In fact many people qualify for Medicare diabetic shoes at least once every calendar year!

Take an active part in managing diabetes and diabetic foot care and the threat of amputation becomes minimal. Diabetes isn’t a death sentence but it does affect life choices made. This is just one other area that people with diabetes need to be aware of.