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By Nrupa Shah
December 27, 2013
Category: Diabetes

Ever wonder how your body stays warm? Well, your body stays warm by burning fuel for energy.  The same way a fire burns wood and oxygen for heat and light.  Your body is just much more efficient and well controlled.  The most fuel is used by your heart as it is constantly pumping like the ultimate endurance athlete.  That's why the warmest part of your body is your heart.  Your heart pumps warm red oxygen filled blood to your hands and feet to keep them warm and healthy.  That blood then finds its way back to the heart and lungs to get warmed up and refueled with oxygen.  When your body is exposed to cold weather it conserves heat by limiting blood flow to your hands and feet to keep your head and core warm (the important stuff).  That's right; your body is willing to sacrifice your limbs to keep you alive.

If you have diabetes, like actor Tom Hanks who recently made his diagnosis public, or you're pre diabetic then one of the most problematic side effects is damage to your circulation (blood flow). Diabetes causes your vessels to shrink and harden.  This happens to a higher degree in your feet because they are so far away from your body.  It's the damage to your circulation that leads to neuropathy and poor ability to heal.  Unfortunately, this is why so many diabetics are prone to ulceration on their feet.  They can't feel the irritation and develop a wound that is difficult to heal.

In the cold weather, diabetics need to be especially careful because their already poorly vascularized feet are subject to further limits in blood flow as the body conserves heat.  When someone who can't feel their feet very well tries to warm them up, they run into further issues as they don't know how hot is too hot.    You may be able to stick your feet in the fire and not realize your feet are burning (DON'T TRY IT!).  Here are a few winter tips for diabetics.

  1. Keep your feet warm with breathable socks.  You want to keep your feet warm and dry so that if your feet sweat they won't freeze.  I like thick merino wool socks that absorb moisture and regulate temperature well. 
  2. Always dry your feet.  When your feet are wet they are prone to infection.  Always dry your feet after you get out of the shower or finish a workout.  Pay special attention between your toes as this area can harbor moisture and makes a nice home for nasty invaders.
  3. Wear proper footwear.  If you're diabetic you probably already wear shoes with proper support and cushioning but if you don't, now is the time.  I like to wear boots in the winter as they provide support, warmth, and lots of style. 
  4. Be cautious with heated massagers or warming devices.  Diabetics with neuropathy should always use thermometers or have a non-neuropathic loved one check to make sure that heating devices can't burn the feet.
  5. Keep your nails clipped and filed regularly by professionals.  Clip your nails straight across and keep them clean and dry to avoid infection. 
  6. Apply moisturizer to your feet once or twice a day to make sure the cold dry weather isn't drying out your feet.  Dry feet are prone to fissures which can split open causing wounds that can become infected.  If you keep your nails clean and pretty you may be able to get a loved one to rub lotion on your feet.
  7. Last tip is inspection.  A cornerstone of diabetic foot care is to inspect the feet daily to quickly spot wound formation and stop it in its tracks.

Stay warm out there and remember to take care of your feet if you want them to take you where you want to go.  If you have any questions about your shoe gear or your feet, make an appointment with your local podiatrist at Affiliated Foot and Ankle Care located in Edison and Monroe NJ today.

By Nrupa Shah

  

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