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Bunions

I hate my feet. I have bunions like onions and am constantly trying to get nice shoes to fit and disguise them. What advice do you have to help me feel less embarrassed about my extremities! Susan Wright Derbyshire

Answer
Oh dear Susan… bunions like onions! If it’s any consolation you are not alone! Up to 50% of women have bunions, it’s one of the most common foot complaints. Bunions are caused when the bone under the first toe becomes displaced. The big toe tends to shift towards the smaller toes, resulting in a bunion on one side, over time two toes become crossed. When it’s warm, the bunion can swell, become red and tender and this can impact on the way we walk.

Don’t wear high heels, pointed toes or restrictive winter boots and shoes, which keep bunions enclosed adding to the pain. Wear well-fitting shoes or sandals or try padding, but if you are still in discomfort seek help from your podiatrist or doctor. Have you considered surgery? 3 friends of mine recently underwent successful surgery, it’s put a spring in their step!
Proper nail care is a must; the bunion can cause an in growing toenail when the nail literally grows directly into the skin. Often it’s the result of cutting the nail too short and not cutting straight across. Redness, swelling and pain can indicate an infection. Time to seek medical help.

Happy feet!

How does that song by Cab Calloway go? “Happy feet! I’ve got those hap-hap-happy feet! Give them a low-down beat. And they begin dancing!”

Like most of us from time to time I love to dress up, put on my fashionable high heels and dance the night away! But, from time to time, we need to come down from the dizzy heights, because high heels can also cause problems. Although those heeled shoes create a natural arch it means our feet are constantly at an angle, and high heels can shorten the calf muscles (back of the lower leg). The high heels put pressure on the ball of the foot as well as weakening the ankle area and the backs of our legs can feel stiff when we take them off. Those killer heels are OK for high days and holidays, but not for every day if we want our legs and back to stay strong and healthy.

The average, moderately active person walks around 7,500 steps a day. If they maintain that daily average and live until 80, they will have walked about 216,262,500 steps in their lifetime. By 80 the average person with average stride will have walked around 110,000 miles. So, it stands to reason that feet sometimes develop lumps and bumps as a result of all that activity! This year many of us are wearing fashionable ballet pumps or canvas shoes. I admit I am, but are flat shoes any better for us? Many have very thin soles and offer our feet and ankles little or no support, and can change the way we walk encouraging our arches to drop. As a result, more strain may be put on our knees and back. So for everyday use, a sandal, shoe or boot with a low broad heel is a more comfortable option.

Some shoes, especially fashionable stilettos can exacerbate many common foot complaints, so when I wear my killer heels for an event I make sure I keep a pair of flats in my handbag to change into when my feet become too uncomfortable. When I feel pain I act fast – I refuse to become a slave to fashion, because it’s a well-known fact that discomfort shows on the face!

A change is as good as a rest applies to my footwear, and what a relief it can be. I feel better immediately and once again with happy feet…. I feel like dancing!

delayed onset muscle soreness

Dear Diana, I wonder if you could help? I have recently taken up exercise again after several years and am finding that the day afterwards I feel very stiff and uncomfortable. I get out of breath very easily and wonder if there is one exercise regime I should be doing in preference to others? There’s such a bewildering choice. Sandra Eagles, Northwood

Answer
You’re right Sandra – it is bewildering our there! But, stiffness and sore muscles after physical activity is known as [here comes the science!] delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). The good news is it’s a sign of your improving fitness and gets less as your muscles get used to the new physical demands. When muscles work hard or in a different way there may be microscopic damage to the muscle fibres, but it’s quite normal. Achiness and stiffness a day or two after exercising can affect anyone, regardless of your fitness level. But, exercising with warmed-up muscles reduces the chance of injury and will improve your performance. So, Sandra, before your exercise regime simply march on the spot for a minute or two to raise your heart rate and warm up your muscles. (Be vigorous and swing your arms).

You mention you are breathless which may indicate some cardio vascular problems so it’s important that you don’t overdo things. Always start any new activity programme gently and gradually. I recommend Pilates exercises classes for you, a form of exercise that focuses on balance, posture, strength and flexibility and is suitable for people of all ages and fitness levels. Pilates targets specific muscles in a controlled way avoiding DOMS and placing less strain on
your cardio vascular system. But if you really want to ease back into exercise go online and look for my easy to use DVD – EasiFit – ease into fitness and let me know what you think.

SWOLLEN ANKLES

Help, Diana, my ankles seem to be permanently swollen. Even in the morning they are a little swollen but as the day wears on they definitely puff up more. Do you have any tips for reducing them? Tina Shaw, Manchester

Answer Dear Tina, how distressing for you. Technically, your problem is a build-up of fluid and puffiness of the skin and is called an Oedema. It is most common in the feet and ankles where the fluid accumulates under the skin and this causes your swelling. Common causes of oedema are immobility or standing for long periods So I’m not sure what accounts for yours? But don’t worry unduly, it’s normal to have some swelling in your legs at the end of the day, particularly if you’ve been sitting or standing for a long time. And an oedema is often temporary and can clear up by itself. But I would suggest, that you make time to lie down and put your feet up. Ideally place your legs up on pillows to raise them above your heart, and rest.

Taking exercise, even brisk walking helps pump fluid from your legs back to your heart and watching what you eat and following a low-salt diet may reduce fluid build up and swollen ankles. But, Tina, if your feet and ankles stay swollen see your GP. It may be an indication of a more serious underlying health condition which needs to be treated.

Question 2 delayed onset muscle soreness
Dear Diana, I wonder if you could help? I have recently taken up exercise again after several years and am finding that the day afterwards I feel very stiff and uncomfortable. I get out of breath very easily and wonder if there is one exercise regime I should be doing in preference to others? There’s such a bewildering choice. Sandra Eagles, Northwood

MY SECRET VICE!

I’m a chocoholic which gives me a bit of a problem in the guise of “The Green Goddess” because people don’t expect me to have vices, but I’m just normal with the philosophy “a little of what you fancy does you good” I’ve no dietary fads or fancies, eat a well-balanced diet of fresh fruit and veg, plus fibre, diary produce but not much red meat, preferring fish. I eat a little of everything including “naughty but nice” chocolate. OK I do sometimes subconsciously think “does this chocolate contain 50 or 150 calories” – usually accompanied by a vision of lettuce leaves with zero calories for lunch next day!

A moment in the mouth is a month on the hips can apply to chocolate, and it takes a lot of exercise to work off the excess calories stored around my body as fatty deposits in most inconvenient places. I recall the old West Country saying “When man and woman to 40 do come – man puts on belly and woman a bum.” (Tum…if that is more acceptable) Born and bred in the West Country, my school playing fields near Bristol were in close proximity to Fry’s, the chocolate factory. With wind in a certain direction the delicious aroma of chocolate permeated every pore of my body. I wonder if my chocoholicism started there. Always interested in all forms of movement and sport I danced, jumped, ran and swam with that delicious chocolate smell wafting up my nostrils! As a tiny girl, chocolate was my strict father’s reward to me for good behaviour, and during my teen’s chocolate played its part in the courting game. Many a beau wooed his girlfriend with a HUGE box of chocolates tied up with ribbon. Chocolate was the language of love, both fashionable and correct in the Fifties, replicating the TV ad “The Lady loves Milk Tray”.
With age I became sophisticated, preferring dark chocolate, and appreciated the “oomph” liquors add to the taste. As a Mum in my 20’s and with 2 sons developing boyish charm, a box of liquor chocolates was discovered to be a peace offering. After a fall out with Mum chocolate signalled a truce – until next time! I don’t over indulge my passion for chocolate, or anything else potentially harmful or damaging to my health and like many good things should be used but not abused. Chocolate is my special treat to be enjoyed and remembered with pleasure!

Animals are like little angels

“Animals are like little angels, sent to earth to teach us how to love. They don’t get angry or play silly games. They are always there for us.” Whitney Mandel

I’m a cat lover and Maisie, my black and white moggie is important to me. If you’re an animal lover you know how good it is interacting with your pet, far less threatening than with human beings! Petting an animal causes the release of endorphins (feel-good neurotransmitters) which have an extremely positive impact on one’s health and wellbeing.
Recently wearing my Lady Taverners “hat” (I’m President of the charity’s Surrey region) I had the privilege of assisting 15 youngsters with physical and mental disabilities, (accompanied by their carers) from 2 special Surrey schools, when they visited a Farm Park in Surrey. Encouraged by the delightful Bockett’s Farm staff they got up close and personal to many farm animals and it was a joy to watch their excitement and happiness. Animal assisted therapy (AAT) is a type of therapy involving animals as a form of treatment. If we see animals at rest or in a peaceful state, this can signal to us safety, security and feelings of well-being. The simple act of stroking a pet can lower blood pressure reducing physical as well as emotional stress. Just watching fish is known to reduce stress (think of all those tanks in dental or medical waiting rooms!)
It was a joy to watch our young people, many unable to speak, as they cuddled small rabbits, guinea pigs and hamsters, while others petted the donkeys, goats and lamas. They were beside themselves with excitement to ride in the farms tractor trailer, but the highlight of the day was to cheer on their favourite in the Pigs Race! The power of pets and farm animals is becoming a vital tool in the treatment of a variety of medical conditions and disorders for both young and old alike. Particularly those associated with mental health, helping to improve social, emotional, or cognitive functioning. Although some domestic pets may transmit disease or inflict injury, a friendly pet can help many physical and mental issues. Companion animals, in addition to their well-known role as helpers to the handicapped, can help alleviate depression and loneliness and ease the social pain of aging in our society. “Animals are such agreeable friends – they ask no questions; they pass no criticisms” George Eliot