The human foot is one of the most complex body parts we have: just one foot contains 26 bones, 33 joints, 107 ligaments, and 19 muscles. But we tend to take our feet for granted. They’re chiefly responsible for numerous daily tasks, but until we experience a problem or feel foot pain, we’re likely to neglect the needs of our feet.
But now researchers are saying that preventative care, early detection, and fitness — all centered around our feet — can reduce larger health issues later on. This is especially true for diabetics, whose feet are particularly vulnerable. Startlingly, 100,000 diabetics end up needing leg amputations every year — and many of these amputations could have been prevented.. In a survey comprised of type 2 diabetics, only 54% of respondents realized diabetes could result in reduced foot sensation and foot ulcers. Even scarier, only 22% of these diabetic patients had their feet regularly examined by a medical professional.
The feet are particularly susceptible to damage from an onset of diabetes. Because high blood glucose levels weaken the body’s nerves, it leads to vascular issues and diminished circulation and blood supply to the feet. These high glucose levels actually clog the foot’s arteries in the same way that the heart’s arteries are affected. As a result of the poor circulation and the nerve damage to the feet, many diabetics develop a condition called neuropathy, which entails a complete loss of sensation in the feet. Because this condition impacts a patient very gradually, an early diabetes diagnosis is vital, as is an adequate foot care routine.
But even for non-diabetics, foot care is of high importance. Wearing supportive footwear and reducing moisture can play a large role in foot comfort and reducing injuries in the long term. Many foot-related injuries are simply overlooked and unfortunately develop into lasting and worsening issues with age. Anything from ingrown toenails and bunions to fallen arches and sprains should be examined and treated to prevent unnecessary disability and pain.
Practicing proper foot hygiene is helpful, but experts say we should also do simple exercises to help strengthen our feet and ankles. The strength of your foot can impact how your entire body functions, and most of us should focus a bit more on developing our foot fitness. Exercises like toe lifts, toe spreading, and heel-toe walks are easy but effective ways to build up our foot strength and help prevent injury.
If you don’t see your doctor enough, take a few minutes every week to look over your feet and check for signs of infection or injury. Check for cuts, blisters, and inflammation. If you see anything that doesn’t look quite right, ask your doctor. Our feet are our foundation for our lives, and taking good care of them is a must for a vibrant and healthy life.