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.

Leg health dos and don’ts
• Check legs and feet regularly
• Try to elevate your legs whenever possible
• Get prompt treatment for any knocks and sores, particularly if you have diabetes.
• If you need to stand for long periods, wear suitable comfortable shoes because they will support your feet and ease pressure on legs
• Get properly measured and fitted for compression hosiery by a pharmacist or nurse
• Try the following exercises. The first can be done either sitting up or lying down: Flex your foot up and down then rotate your ankle to provide full     circulation to your leg. Then stand up and move your foot up and down, stretching your calf muscle.
• Moisturise legs
• Walk and exercise regularly
• Eat a balanced diet and watch your weight.
• Cross your legs for long periods as this prevents blood from circulating easily
• Remain inactive for extended periods
• Stand for a long time
• Have very hot baths
• Assume your leg will get better by itself
Pinpointing problems with your pins
Here is a quick guide to help you identify common leg problems:
Spider veins
Symptoms: A web of thread-like veins visible on the surface of the skin. These occur when the pressure of the blood flowing backwards widens the veins, making them more visible. Their appearance can be a sign the veins in your leg are not working efficiently. Treatment: Keep active. Maintain a healthy weight. Wear compression hosiery as this will assist the blood to flow up your legs and prevent pooling.
Swollen ankles
Symptoms: Legs and ankles look puffy. Swelling will often get worse as the day progresses. It can be due to standing or being inactive for long periods, and may indicate poor circulation. Treatment: Put your legs up for an hour or two. Do leg exercises to keep the blood moving. If you have mobility problems, these can be done sitting down. See your GP as legs swell for a variety of reasons.
Varicose veins
Symptoms: Veins become lumpy, blue or purple in colour, and are tender to the touch. They can make the legs ache, itch and feel heavy. They are caused by pressure from blood flowing backwards and pooling. Often they are hereditary but they can be the result of having a job that involves a lot of standing. Being overweight is a risk factor. Treatment: Your GP may advise compression hosiery to help the blood flow back up to the heart or recommend surgery to remove them.
Chronic oedema
Symptoms: This refers to swelling around ankles or in the legs that lasts for more than three months and does not improve when legs are elevated. A common cause is sitting still for long periods. Treatment: The GP will prescribe compression bandages to reduce its size. Then compression hosiery may be used to help contain the limb and prevent further swelling.
Venous leg ulcer
Symptoms: An open wound appears below the knee or on the foot and fails to heal. It is caused by persistent high blood pressure in the leg veins which damages skin and leads to the formation of the ulcer. One in 50 of those over 80 in the UK has venous leg ulcers. People with diabetes are most at risk. Treatment: See your GP as soon as possible. The wound needs to be dressed regularly and kept clean to prevent infection. Compression bandages or stockings are used to control the blood pressure in the legs.
(Article source: Choice)

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