Are your legs getting enough TLC? As high-kicking Angela Rippon reminds us, they have to last a lifetime.
If tired and aching limbs are ignored and left untreated, they can lead to more serious problems such as varicose veins and painfully sore leg ulcers. Britain’s first female TV newsreader Angela Rippon, well-known for high-kicking her long legs on the Morecambe and Wise Show, is so concerned about the health of the nation’s lower limbs she is heading a campaign to encourage us to take better care of our pins.
“Swollen ankles and throbbing legs shouldn’t simply be accepted as part of getting older,” she says. “We should seek help and advice from a health care professional if we experience these symp- toms. Effective treatment is available. “Checking our legs regularly, exercising frequently, eating a balanced diet and wearing compression hosiery can help us keep our legs healthy.”
Perhaps it is because at a certain age our legs spend most of their time clad in jeans and trousers that we forget to examine them regularly and don’t bother to moisturise every time we bathe or shower. This means we may miss the appearance of thread veins or puffiness around the ankles, which can be early warning signs of future problems.
Eighty-one per cent of us, according to research conducted at the end of last year for Activa, the UK’s leading compression hosiery company, complain of tired, aching legs, but only 36 per cent of us seek advice about this from our GP or local pharmacist. A more worrying finding is that 52 per cent of us don’t realise that being inactive for long periods watching TV, working on the computer or going on long car or bus journeys increases our risk of developing a Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT), which can prove fatal.
Poor circulation is the main cause of aching legs and is worsened by factors such as smoking and being overweight. Regular exercise and wearing compression hosiery stimulates blood circulation in the legs, helping to reduce aches and pains. However, only one in four people, according to the survey, understands how compression hosiery – tights, stockings and socks – works. Many assume it is simply for older people or something used on long-haul flights.
Angela, vice-president of the Patients’ Association, says: “This research reveals that not only is there a high incidence of leg problems but also a great lack of awareness about leg health. Forty-four per cent of people experience swollen legs or ankles, but despite theprevalenceofthesesymptoms, many aren’t seeking help. If we act now, it could help prevent more serious problems developing in the future.” Leg health expert Hazel Keohane, based in Kent, helps train hospital and pharmacy staff to recognise leg problems.
Hazel says: “It is particularly important that an older person examines their feet and legs regularly, checking the skin condition, looking for colour changes and spotting any swelling. If any changes are noted, they should be acted upon as soon as possible, because if a condition is ignored it can deteriorate and something more serious may develop.
“Compression hosiery is often helpful because it’s designed to apply a firm, continuous, graduated pressure to the muscles and veins in the legs. During walking, the calf muscle naturally contracts and relaxes. The hosiery mimics this action, which assists the body’s own natural mechanism for returning blood back to the heart.”
With more than half in the survey confessing they did not understand how varicose veins, oedema (swelling) and leg ulcers develop, it is not surprising early warning signs go unheeded.