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Your feet are the foundations of the body, yet they are often neglected over the years. This can negatively affect our balance, increase the risk of falling and on the extreme end of the scale prevent us from walking; all things that become more difficult as we age anyway. It’s important to look after your feet and to go to see a professional if you experience any pain or anything that feels out of the ordinary.

Health in Aging says that one in three people over the age of 65 has foot pain, stiffness, or aching feet. “Older people who are living in long-term care facilities tend to have even higher rates of foot problems. In the United States, up to 87% of people have painful feet at some time in their lives. Most of these problems derive from poorly fitting shoes, such as pointy-toed or high-heeled shoes.

“Older or obese people, women, and people with diabetes, cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, or knee, hip, or back pain have much higher rates of foot problems. For women, pain in the toes and ball of the foot is much more common than in men, and it gets worse with age. However, pain in the heel tends to decrease as we get older.”

The good news is that a lot of these foot-related ailments that occur as we age are preventable. Here are some things you can do to keep your feet in tip-top shape as you get older:

1. Check your feet

We’ve all got used to checking the rest of our body for lumps and bumps, but how often do you check your feet? Make it part of your daily routine to inspect your feet for anything unusual. Check for dryness, discolouration, cuts and blisters. If anything looks like it could cause you concern – immediately or in the future – it’s a good idea to get a professional to look at it and give you some advice.

2. Practise good hygiene

You should wash your feet every day using warm soapy water, but avoid soaking them as this can destroy your skin’s natural oils. After washing make sure that you dry them thoroughly, as this can prevent infections such as athlete’s foot.

It’s also important to trim your toenails regularly and carefully, cutting straight across and not down at the edges as this can cause ingrown toenails.

3. Maintain a healthy weight

According to Harvard Health Publishing, being overweight affects your feet by putting greater force on them with each step. “It can also increase your risk of having a condition like arthritis in the feet and worsen pain from other foot problems. Being overweight can also harm foot health by putting you at higher risk for diabetes or poor blood circulation, which can lead to foot pain and loss of sensation in the feet.”

4. Wear the correct size of socks and shoes

Wearing ill-fitting shoes and socks can cause a number of health problems for your feet. Try new shoes on in the afternoon as our feet tend to swell during the day and make sure you change your socks daily to maintain good hygiene.

5. Stretch your feet

Stretching the tops and bottoms of your feet can help to ease foot pain. Stretching can also prevent a condition known as a shortened Achilles tendon.

The Verywell Health website says: “Tendons connect muscle to bone, and, if these are shortened due to water loss, you may end up with a more flat-footed gait since you will be less able to flex your ankle, mid-foot, and toes. This is especially true of the Achilles tendon which connects the calf muscle to the heel bone.

“Unless steps are taken to routinely stretch your Achilles tendon, you may be at greater risk of a tear or rupture if you overexert the tissues.”

6. Moisturise

Verywell Health adds: “Dry skin, especially on the soles of the feet, is a problem that may require a daily application of moisturiser to prevent cracking and infection. The gradual depletion collagen, exacerbated by the lack of consistent foot care, can lead to the formation of cracked heels and calluses.

“If left untreated, cracked skin around the heel can make it painful to walk or even stand.”

7. Get a foot “check-up”

Like going to the dentist, make visiting a podiatrist on a regular basis a habit. Such experts will be able to pick up any signs of foot problems that might cause you future bother far sooner than you might. They can offer treatment and advice to keep your feet at their best.

The word anxiety has become a real “buzzword” in recent years. As popularised by the Kardashian’s who describe not getting the perfect Met Gala dress as having “major anxiety”, it’s no wonder that we all seem to be a little confused when it comes to what the word means and whether we have legitimate reason to be anxious or not.

Anxiety is a mental disorder which can make everyday tasks seem overwhelming or impossible. The NHS explains that “anxiety is a feeling of unease, such as worry or fear, that can be mild or severe”. While everyone has feelings of anxiety at some point in their life, and this can be perfectly normal, they add that “some people find it hard to control their worries. Their feelings of anxiety are more constant and can often affect their daily lives”.

If when you feel anxious you have any psychological or physical symptoms of feeling restless or worried, have trouble concentrating or sleeping, or experience dizziness or heart palpitations, you may be suffering from a condition known as generalised anxiety disorder (GAD). “GAD is a long-term condition that causes you to feel anxious about a wide range of situations and issues, rather than one specific event. People with GAD feel anxious most days and often struggle to remember the last time they felt relaxed.”

When does feeling anxious become a mental health problem?

Mind the mental health charity says that “anxiety can become a mental health problem if it impacts on your ability to live your life as fully as you want to. For example, it may be a problem for you if our feelings of anxiety are very strong or last for a long time, your fears or worries are out of proportion to the situation, you avoid situations that might cause you to feel anxious, your worries feel very distressing or are hard to control you regularly experience symptoms of anxiety, which could include panic attacks, or you find it hard to go about your everyday life or do things you enjoy”.

A panic attack, according to the NHS, “is when your body experiences a rush of intense mental and physical symptoms. It can come on very quickly and for no apparent reason”. This can be a very scary thing to experience and panic attacks can be very frightening and distressing. Most panic attacks last for between 5 and 20 minutes, however some have been known to last up to an hour. Some people have attacks once or twice a month, while others have them several times a week.

The NHS adds that “although panic attacks are frightening, they’re not dangerous. An attack won’t cause you any physical harm, and it’s unlikely that you’ll be admitted to hospital if you have one”. You might be experiencing a panic attack if your symptoms include feeling faint, sweating, chest pain, chills or a feeling of dread or a fear of dying. There are many other symptoms that people experience when having a panic attack, but those are just a few examples.

If you think you could have an anxiety disorder, which is making life more difficult that it should be, the best thing you can do is go to your GP as a starting point, explain your symptoms and get a diagnosis if required. Your GP can then point you in the direction of treatment options and support to help you cope with your anxiety.

The waiting list in the UK for mental health help and referrals is notoriously long (and growing), as resources and funding continues to be squeezed in a difficult economy. If you have been put on a waiting list to receive treatment for your anxiety disorder, you might want to seek out other self-help options while you wait.

Healthline offer some great suggestions on how to manage anxiety on your own:

Identify and learn to manage your triggers

Try to think about the circumstances that make you feel anxious. Maybe this could be drinking caffeine or alcohol, or maybe hanging out with a specific person in your life. When you know what triggers you then you can try to limit your exposure; if you can.

Keep your body and mind healthy

Exercise regularly, eat well, get enough sleep, and hang around with people who help you to feel calm.

Do a daily or routine meditation

Meditation, when done regularly, can help you to train your brain to dismiss anxious thoughts when they appear. If you find sitting still and concentrating difficult, try starting with yoga.

In the aftermath of the shocking suicide of Caroline Flack on February 15th 2020, the world has been forced to take a look at what they share online and the impact that could have on the mental health of other users. Obviously the scale of the online abuse and trolling towards Caroline was heightened due to her celebrity status, but lots of us are still subject to daily online abuse from “keyboard warriors” who seem to suffer no or little consequences for their actions.

An enquiry by Young Minds said that 38% of young people reported that social media has a negative impact on how they feel about themselves and that cyberbullying is “distinct and potent, particularly due to its potential to be relentless”. It found that young people thought social media companies’ current responses to cyberbullying were inadequate and that 83% of young people think that they should do more to tackle cyberbullying on their platforms.

Caroline’s story is tragic, and it is difficult to pin-point who or what is responsible for such an unnecessary loss of talent, but lots of people have taken to social media to blame a combination of harassment by the media centring on a story of an alleged assault by Caroline against her boyfriend at the time, and also the public’s response which was to hound her with messages of disgust online; some resorting to intense trolling.

An article published by the BBC explained that “trolls are people who leave intentionally provocative or offensive messages on the internet in order to get attention, cause trouble or upset someone”. In the article they spoke to Imran Ahmed, CEO of the Centre for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH), who explained that there are two main types of troll:

“The first type of troll targets public figures with large social media followings in the hope that they respond. The trolls then have their hateful messages re-broadcast to a wider audience when the target of their trolling, or their followers, respond. The other type of trolls are people who exhibit a psychological trait known as ‘negative social potency’ – this means they enjoy causing harm to others.”

Although it’s common sense that negative comments directed at someone will make them feel bad about themselves, the anonymity of the internet means that the bullying can be relentless and more damaging to our mental health. According to Thrive Global, victims of cyberbullying are almost twice as likely to attempt suicide compared to their peers. They added that teen victims of cyberbullying are more depressed, irritable, and angry, and that cyberbullying affects 60 million working age Americans, or roughly 24% of the adult population.

According to The Sun “online bullying has grown by 88% in just five years, with thousands of children and teenagers being targeted”. They added that in October 2016, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) introduced new laws that could see those who create “derogatory hashtags” or post “humiliating” Photoshopped images jailed. “Inciting people to harass others online, known as virtual mobbing, is among the offences included in the guidance. Baiting – when someone is humiliated online by being branded sexually promiscuous – is also mentioned in the guidance.

“The CPS also announced the launch of a hate crime consultation, issuing a series of public policy statements centred on combating crimes against disabled people, as well as racial, religious, homophobic and transphobic hate crime.”

Although not all of us have experienced trolling, many have, and it can have devastating consequences. So how can you protect your mental health when dealing with trolls? Harley Therapy offer some tips on how to do this:

• ‘Don’t feed the trolls’ is a popular phrase used online. Meaning ‘ignore them and they’ll go away’.
• Many websites and social media platforms have options for reporting abusive behaviour. It’s OK to use these or to report serious attacks to the police if necessary.
• Accept how you feel. It’s not nice being trolled and it’s understandable to feel angry or upset. Putting pressure on yourself to shrug off unpleasant comments may make you feel worse in the long run. Once you’ve accepted what’s happened, it’ll be easier to put the incident out of your mind because it’s not worthy of your attention any longer.
• Many trolls are trying to get a reaction because they are unhappy. It doesn’t excuse their behaviour, but it may help you to see that their comments are more about themselves than they are about you.
• If you have a blog, Facebook page or other public space to share your thoughts, you can use privacy controls to help you choose who can and can’t see your content. You can also switch off comment options and make it so that only certain people can send you messages.

The coronavirus is spreading, both across our news channels and the country of China at a rate far quicker than any of us would like to hear. The UK’s Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said that the new coronavirus “will be with us for at least some months to come”, according to the BBC, and that the number of new cases worldwide was “doubling every five days”. There have so far been more than 17,000 confirmed cases of the virus in China and sadly approximately 425 people have died there.

The Independent have reported that British officials are continuing attempts to trace 239 people who flew to the UK from Wuhan, the city at the centre of the outbreak, before travel restrictions came into force. “Some 94 UK nationals have been evacuated from the city to Britain and are now undergoing 14 days in quarantine at Arrowe Park Hospital on the Wirral.”

According to the NHS, the coronavirus (2019-nCoV) is a new respiratory illness that has not previously been seen in humans, and although the risk of getting the illness in the UK is low, it’s a good idea to be aware of its symptoms and how to prevent it spreading. The symptoms usually include a cough, a high temperature and difficulty breathing. They add that “because it’s a new illness, we do not know exactly how coronavirus spreads from person to person, but similar viruses spread by cough droplets”.

The biggest concern for preventing the spread of the illness is for travellers returning from Wuhan and Hubei Province in the last 14 days. If you have, stay indoors and avoid contact with other people. Call NHS 111 to tell them of your recent travel to the city. The NHS add that “if you get a cough, a high temperature, or you feel short of breath, continue to follow this advice. Do not leave your house without getting advice from a doctor”. Those in Northern Ireland should call their GP.

If you’ve returned from other areas of China (but not Hong Kong or Macao) in the last 14 days, and get a cough or fever, or you feel short of breath, again, stay indoors and avoid contact with other people and call NHS 111 to tell them of your recent travel to China. Follow this advice even if your symptoms are mild. The UK Government says that generally the coronavirus can cause more severe symptoms in people with weakened immune systems, older people, and those with long-term conditions like diabetes, cancer and chronic lung disease.

Sky News have reported that a UK-wide campaign has been launched offering the public advice on how to stop the spread of the deadly coronavirus. The public have been told to always carry a tissue to catch coughs and sneezes and bin it after use and to wash hands with soap and water or use sanitiser gel; in addition to the information above on what to do if you have visited China recently.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has advised against all travel to Hubei Province due to the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, according to an article in the Standard. They add that some airlines, including British Airways, have suspended flights to and from mainland China. “Other commercial airlines are still operating, but it may become harder over the coming weeks for those who wish to leave China to do so.”

What happens if you have already booked a trip to China in the next few weeks? If you decide to cancel your trip, normal policy would apply according to your insurance and chosen airline guidelines in terms of being refunded or rearranging your trip. Sadly, airlines are not obliged to refund tickets whatever the Foreign Office advice, but in past emergencies they have offered some flexibility.

If you have a holiday booked for a neighbouring country to China, the best thing to do is to keep an eye out for the Government’s advice and news on whether the illness has been contained or has spread to these countries and what to do in both scenarios.

As it stands there is no specific treatment for coronavirus, however, the UK Government has donated £20 million towards producing a vaccine to treat sufferers, which aims to fast-track the process to within six to eight months.

Having high blood pressure is something we are brought up being warned to avoid as we travel towards old age, but it is more common than you might think. According to the UK Government, high blood pressure affects more than 1 in 4 adults in England, which was around 12.5 million people in 2015 and of that affected 31% of adult men and 26% women.

The British Heart Foundation (BHF) explains: “Blood pressure is the pressure of blood in your arteries – the vessels that carry your blood from your heart to your brain and the rest of your body. You need a certain amount of pressure to get the blood moving round your body.

“Your blood pressure naturally goes up and down throughout the day and night, and it’s normal for it to go up while you’re moving about. It’s when your overall blood pressure is consistently high, even when you are resting, that you need to do something about it.”

High blood pressure is also known as hypertension, and having it can lead to heart and circulatory diseases like heart attack or stroke. It can also cause kidney failure, heart failure, problems with your sight and vascular dementia. It’s not something you should ignore and hope will go away on its own. The symptoms of severe hypertension can include headaches, shortness of breath, nosebleeds, flushing, dizziness, chest pain, visual changes and blood in the urine. If you experience any of these then please go and see a doctor.

The best way to know that if you have high blood pressure is to go to your GP and get it measured. All adults over 40 are advised to have their blood pressure checked at least every five years. The NHS says that “blood pressure is recorded with 2 numbers. The systolic pressure (higher number) is the force at which your heart pumps blood around your body”.

They add that as a general guide:

• high blood pressure is considered to be 140/90mmHg or higher (or 150/90mmHg or higher if you’re over the age of 80)
• ideal blood pressure is usually considered to be between 90/60mmHg and 120/80mmHg

You could be at risk of developing high blood pressure include if you are middle-aged, have a family history of high blood pressure, are of African or Caribbean origin, have a high amount of salt in your food, you don’t do enough exercise, are overweight, drink large amounts of alcohol, if you smoke or if you have had long-term sleep deprivation.

Some medicines can also increase your blood pressure, including the contraceptive pill, steroids, some non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, some pharmacy cough and cold remedies, some herbal remedies, cocaine and amphetamines and some antidepressants.

Your doctor will recommend whether you need to be on medication for high blood pressure, but there are also lifestyle changes you can make to help lower your blood pressure or to prevent it rising in the first place.

The Healthline suggests that you could start by developing a healthy diet including lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean protein like fish. They explain: “A heart-healthy diet is vital for helping to reduce high blood pressure. It’s also important for managing hypertension that is under control and reducing the risk of complications.”

They also suggest increasing your physical activity and reaching a healthy weight. “Reaching a healthy weight should include being more physically active. In addition to helping you shed pounds, exercise can help reduce stress, lower blood pressure naturally, and strengthen your cardiovascular system. Aim to get 150 minutes of moderate physical activity each week. That’s about 30 minutes five times per week.”

Another factor that increases our risk of developing high blood pressure is stress, so it’s a good idea that we are able to learn to manage it appropriately. “Exercise is a great way to manage stress. Other activities can also be helpful. These include meditation, deep breathing, massage, muscle relaxation and yoga or tai chi.”

It’s also advisable to cut down on your drinking and to quit smoking if you want to lower your blood pressure back down to a healthy number. If you are struggling to do either of these things, speak to your GP for some advice.

A few years ago you might not have even heard of what a vegan diet was, but nowadays veganism is infiltrating our news, social media feeds and shopping aisles daily. You might’ve even considered a vegan diet yourself for its supposed positive health, ethical and environmental benefits.

Although it is easier than ever to go vegan – with more access to vegan products and an internet full of tips and recipe ideas than ever before – there are some people who might struggle with the transition of going vegan, and these are those with eating disorders, those with autism, the malnourished and older populations; to name a handful.

Older populations sometimes struggle with getting out to the shops to buy ingredients and also with cooking for themselves, which might make it difficult to go vegan for them. There is also the problem of malnutrition within older populations and the risks of osteoporosis, which we know dairy products can help protect against thanks to the calcium in them.

That isn’t to say that all older people cannot attempt to go vegan, however, should they want to. A report commissioned by The Telegraph showed that more over-60s than ever before are ditching meat and dairy to go vegan. In fact, a new documentary on Netflix called The Gamechangers interviewed Arnold Schwarzenegger, who at 72 has now adopted a new plant based diet. Previous research from The Vegan Society in 2016 found that close to half of all vegans (42%) were in the 15-34 age category and only 14% were aged 65 and over, but that seems to be shifting slowly.

Older people might consider going vegan to improve their health, as age is well known to make it deteriorate. An article published on Livestrong said that “on average, vegetarians of consume less saturated fat, salt, protein and overall fewer calories than those who eat meat, and according to the American Heart Association, the plant-based diet is generally healthier, regardless of age. Vegetarians not only pile more fibre and fresh vegetables on their plates, but also have a lower incidence of diabetes, obesity, heart disease and high blood pressure—conditions that often plague older people.”

If you are considering going vegan as an older person, the NHS have some healthy eating guidelines which may be helpful.

For a healthy vegan diet, they suggest:

• Eating at least 5 portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables every day
• Basing meals on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates (choose wholegrain where possible)
• Having some dairy alternatives, such as soya drinks and yoghurts (choose lower fat and lower sugar options)
• Eating some beans, pulses and other proteins
• Choosing unsaturated oils and spreads, and eat in small amounts
• Drinking plenty of fluids (the government recommends 6 to 8 cups or glasses a day)

If you do not plan your diet properly, you could miss out on essential nutrients, such as calcium, iron and vitamin B12.

The NHS goes on to say that good sources of calcium for vegans include:

• green, leafy vegetables – such as broccoli, cabbage and okra, but not spinach
• fortified unsweetened soya, rice and oat drinks
• calcium-set tofu
• sesame seeds and tahini
• pulses
• brown and white bread (in the UK, calcium is added to white and brown flour by law)
• dried fruit, such as raisins, prunes, figs and dried apricots

A vegan diet can be high in iron, according to the NHS, although iron from plant-based food is absorbed by the body less well than iron from meat.

Good sources of iron for vegans are:

• pulses
• wholemeal bread and flour
• breakfast cereals fortified with iron
• dark green, leafy vegetables, such as watercress, broccoli and spring greens
• nuts
• dried fruits, such as apricots, prunes and figs

The NHS adds that the body needs vitamin B12 to maintain healthy blood and a healthy nervous system. “It’s only found naturally in foods from animal sources. Sources for vegans are therefore limited and a vitamin B12 supplement may be needed.”

Sources of vitamin B12 for vegans include:

• breakfast cereals fortified with B12
• unsweetened soya drinks fortified with vitamin B12
• yeast extract, such as Marmite, which is fortified with vitamin B12

If you are thinking of changing your diet, it’s important to consult a doctor or medical professional first to see if you are suitable for a vegan diet, especially if you are over 60.