We are in the middle of National Diabetes Month, which is recognized every November by the American Diabetes Association. This means it is the perfect time to talk about diabetic foot care and how the lifestyle choices you make can keep your feet safe from serious medical complications.
Diabetes is a very common problem here in the United States—over 114 million adults are either diabetic or prediabetic, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services—so diabetes and foot health probably deserve more than just a single month!
For context, that 114 million is more than one-third of the U.S. general population (roughly 326 million citizens).
Hopefully it’s easy to see why this is such an important issue!
Now, we know there are a host of problems commonly cited (and deservedly so) in conjunction with diabetes. These include increased risk for blindness, heart attacks, strokes, and kidney disease. It would be a mistake, however, to ignore the ways the disease can affect your feet.
Diabetes is a disease marked by high blood sugar (glucose) levels. Excessive sugar impairs the circulatory, nervous, and immune systems. These respective systems are essential for basically all areas of the body – including your feet.
You don’t likely give this a lot of thought—unless you’re a doctor or student studying to become one—but your nervous system enables you to feel when you have problems in your feet. The pain you experience is important for recognizing issues on the parts of your body that are the farthest from your eyes (since sight is another way of realizing something is wrong). At the same time, your immune system plays a vital role in both healing wounds and fighting infection. And, of course, your circulatory system makes sure the tissues in your lower limbs receive the nutrients they need.
When those body systems are compromised by diabetes, you are at risk for serious medical complications. Charcot foot and diabetic foot ulcers are the primary concerns, and both could potentially require amputation.
That may be alarming, but the good news is diabetic foot care can help keep your feet safe!
To put it simply, diabetic foot care is a matter of taking measures aimed at both protecting feet from damage and identifying problems at their earliest, most treatable stages. This includes doing things like wearing diabetic shoes and inspecting your feet on a daily basis. Another important part of diabetic foot care is making healthy lifestyle choices.
As is the case with any human, the best lifestyle choices for optimal health if you have diabetes are centered on healthy eating and a regular exercise program.
With regards to eating healthy, it is critical for you to manage your blood sugar levels. This means following doctor orders and basing your dietary choices on foods like fresh vegetables, legumes (beans, etc.), whole grains, fish, nuts, low-fat dairy products, and lean meats. Avoid sugar-laden beverages and (at the very least) limit the amount of candy or sweet treats you consume.
(You don’t actually have to completely abandon sugar from your diet – you do, however, need to be sensible about it.)
Before we get into the matter of exercise as a lifestyle choice to protect your diabetic feet, we need to remind you that all activities must be approved by a doctor first. Your primary care physician plays a definite role in this, but don’t forget to have Foot Specialists of Long Island examine your lower limbs as well. We can identify potential risks and perhaps prescribe orthotic devices (if necessary) to reduce your risk of potential complications.
Exercise is proven to help individuals who are afflicted with diabetes, but you simply must protect your feet. This starts with choosing the right kinds of activities.
Instead of high-impact exercises—ones that feature lots of running and jumping (which place excessive force on your lower limbs)—you should create an exercise plan centered on low-impact activities. Swimming, walking, yoga, and stationary cycling are all wonderful options to improve your health – without too much risk for your feet and ankles.
When done correctly, weight-lifting is another exercise that can be beneficial. As with aerobic exercises, lifting weights can help improve blood flow down into the lower limbs.
Of course, one of the very best healthy lifestyle decisions you can make is to recruit the help of medical professionals – like coming to see us for a diabetic foot care plan! We can help you identify measures to keep your feet safe and take care of minor problems that would otherwise become major problems over time.
For more information—or to request an appointment—simply give us a call at (516) 804-9038 and we’ll be glad to help you!