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Obesity and your feet

Obesity is becoming an ever-increasing problem in The Bahamas and around the world. It is estimated that worldwide over one billion adults are overweight (body mass index BMI >25) and almost 300 million are clinically obese (BMI >30). In 2014, The Bahamas was ranked the sixth most obese country in the world. The 2012 STEPS survey showed that 79.6 percent of Bahamians are overweight and some 49.2 percent are obese with an average body mass index of 30.5. The numbers tell a true story, because we see it every day.

Although it seems obvious that weight definitely affects the feet, a number of recent studies have found a direct link between the individuals weight and increased body mass index and foot and ankle problems. Not only is there an increased risk of “wear-and-tear” problems (such as arthritis, tendonitis and heel pain), but also an increased risk of developing type II diabetes. As little as one pound above your ideal weight can increase pressure in your hips, knees and ankles and feet. In another study, 40.8 percent of the respondents reported weight gain prior to the onset of foot pain. Obesity has a significant effect on foot pain, foot function, footwear fit and general foot health.

Foot pain: A survey by the American Podiatric Medical Association found foot pain and problems are a major deterrent to exercise. It is felt that foot pain contributes to making 72 percent of American’s fat. Obesity can lead to foot pain because of the increased body weight and stress on the foot. The pain often occurs on weight-bearing areas on the bottom of the foot as well as in the tendons, ligaments and joints.

Foot function: Obesity contributes to many musculoskeletal problems in the feet and ankles. The heel and toes take on more pressure, the arch and sides of the feet stretch out more, the bones are more apt to develop stress fractures, and shoes don’t fit or support the feet well. There is increased foot pressures with walking and standing and increased weight and contact with the ground. Simply walking up a flight of stairs or up an incline can increase pressure at the ankle by four to six times; the foot does not function at its best and one’s ability to exercise is limited. Several common foot problems may develop including posterior tibial tendonitis and dysfunction, plantar fasciitis, ingrown toenails, arthritis, gout, fungal infections, diabetes, venous insufficiency and peripheral arterial disease.

Footwear: Often times for persons who are obese, comfortable and appropriate footwear more difficult to find. Further extra wide shoes are not always available and the available shoe styles may not support the weight or the so-called “fat shoes” are not attractive or stylish.

Foot pain, foot function and footwear can all affect the overall general health of the feet and the body. However, there are many steps you can take to have healthy feet and improve your overall health.

Journey to healthy feet

Weight control can be an essential component in alleviating foot pain. Physical activity is vital for weight loss and overall healthy living. Before starting any exercise program see your physician for a complete physical exam and the podiatrist for a foot and shoe evaluation. Start with low-impact or off-weight aerobic activities, such as water aerobics, weight lifting, bike riding, swimming, etc. Start exercising slowly and gradually increase the time and distance. Avoid activities that cause pain, stop if you have foot pain and see the podiatrist to have your feet checked out. Walking is the best exercise for most persons because almost everyone can do it, there is no special equipment and you can do it all year round.

Shoes also play a major role in preventing foot pain and improving foot function. The best shoe for you is the one that fits you best. It is imperative to always try on your shoes before buying them. The best shoe for you has proper support, flexibility, cushioning and compensates for any foot problems you may have. Shoes should be checked for wear and tear and changed regularly.

Oftentimes upon starting an exercise program you may experience some foot pain. See a podiatrist right away if you have pain, swelling or injury to your foot or if there is a change in the shape and function of your foot, foot deformity or any foot complaint.

• For more information email foothealth242@gmail.com or visit www.apma.org. To see a podiatrist visit Bahamas Foot Centre on Rosetta Street, telephone 325-2996, or Bahamas Surgical Associates Centre, Albury Lane, telephone 394-5820, or Lucayan Medical Centre on East Sunrise Highway, Freeport, Grand Bahama, telephone 373-7400.

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