Our feet pay a price to get us moving. They endure the surface challenges tread upon, the constraints of footwear, and the pressure from our upper body. What happens when they eventually suffer the effects of use or even abuse? Foot problems can happen suddenly or gradually as a result of disease, disability, or poor personal care. But, neglecting the care of your feet is not only your problem, it is everyone’s problem.
The U.S. spends the most of any nation on health care but ranks low in life expectancy. With diabetes being the fastest-growing chronic disease in the country, the cost of treating it is also soaring. According to the American Diabetes Association, diabetes-related costs totaled $245 billion in 2012 from $174 billion in 2007. Foot problems contribute to this cost because it is a common cause of hospitalization due to foot ulcerations, infections, and amputations.
Health disparities among minorities here in Monroe County, New York are alarming. In a recent newspaper story ‘Racial disparity on health issues is everyone’s problem’ in Rochester’s Democrat and Chronicle:
- 24% of African-Americans in Monroe County 35 years and older have diabetes, twice the rate among whites, 12 percent.
- 30% of African-Americans say they had no physical activity in their leisure time within the past month. 26% of Latinos, 13% of whites.
- 41% of Latinos considered to be obese, verses 38% among African-Americans and 27% among whites.
Unfortunately, these statistics are similar in other areas of the country as well.
Reducing the health care burden due to diabetes requires awareness of podiatric services that help prevent loss of limb and life. It is even more crucial to reach populations most at risk of foot complications. A survey commissioned by the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA) found that 90% of U.S. Hispanics with diabetes or at risk have not visited a podiatrist for essential foot care. The APMA informs that having the feet examined can reduce amputation risk by 45-85 percent.
At-risk groups, as well as the general public, need to know why foot care is so important. Everyone needs foot health awareness.
THINGS THAT CAN LEAD TO SERIOUS FOOT PROBLEM
- Poor Blood Flow: due to circulation problems, smoking, heart disease, diabetes
- Lack of Feeling (neuropathy): due to nerve damage from diabetes, alcohol use, chemotherapy, nerve trauma
- Weak Immune System: seen in cancer patients, diabetes, HIV/AIDS
- Change in Foot Structure: due to neuromuscular disease, improper shoes, obesity, arthritis
The Wall Street Journal shared ‘A Simple Step to Cut Diabetes Cost’ which is GETTING PEOPLE TO CHECK THEIR FEET DAILY. The feet often display the first signs of diabetes like numbness and tingling sensations. When there is loss of feeling in the feet, a person can injure themselves from a minor cut or blister. Poor blood flow slows the healing process which can then allow a minor wound to become gangrene.
SIMPLE LIFESTYLE CHANGES TO HELP PREVENT FOOT PROBLEM
- Check your feet daily. Use a hand or wall mirror or ask someone to check for you.
- Wear proper shoes and socks. Shoes should fit without applying increased pressure on a particular area. Ask your doctor about prescription shoes if your have at-risk feet.
- See a podiatrist regularly. If you are diabetic, make sure a podiatrist is part of your health care team.
It is bad enough when people neglect their own feet. But ignoring the impact of poor foot health on our economy is a step in the wrong direction. Foot pain leads to poor work productivity and decreased work force. Loss of a limb leads to a quicker loss of life. That’s a high price to pay.
April is Foot Health Awareness Month. Be aware that when your foot hurts, you hurt all over…and everyone else in our country hurts, too.
photo credit: flickr/theenmoy