Study: 81% of Obese Americans Experience Foot Problems
Extra pounds don’t just affect your waistline. Believe it or not, it can have serious effects on your feet as well.
According to a recent survey by the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA), 81 percent of obese Americans reported experiencing foot pain and multiple foot and ankle conditions at times. As obesity rates continue to rise in the U.S., proper foot care needs to become a critical factor in our overall health care plans.
The survey, which polled 1,275 U.S. adults, ages 18 and older, also found that 74 percent of overweight Americans are also experiencing foot problems.
Your feet are the foundation for your body, which bears your entire body weight day in and day out. Over time, added weight can lead to various painful foot conditions, such as the following:
- Osteoarthritis: Osteoarthritis is considered a “wear and tear” condition that occurs when the cartilage begins breaking down in one or more joints, which often leads to a total loss of cartilage. The cartilage breakdown is a result of repeated stress and overuse, which can be exasperated from carrying around extra pounds. In the foot and ankle joints, this can become quite painful and debilitating.
- Plantar Fasciitis: Plantar fasciitis is when the plantar fascia, or band of tissue that runs from the heel to the ball of the foot, becomes inflamed. When this tissue becomes inflamed, it can lead to sharp pain in the heel and arch of the foot. This condition may be particularly painful upon standing in the morning or after sitting for long periods of time and then walking.
- Arch problems: Due to extra weight bearing down on your feet, arch problems can occur. As a result, many people can suffer from arch collapse, causing flat feet. Flat feet can cause the ankle to roll inward to compensate for the collapsed arch, leading to alignment problems and accompanied ankle, knee, and back pain.
- Heel Spurs: This is a common problem seen in overweight individuals due to the significant undue pressure placed on the longitudinal arch, which causes it to pull on the plantar fascia that connects to the heel. The stress can result in the formation of a heel spur.
As the APMA mentioned, you don’t have to be obese to experience foot pain, although being overweight can also lead to other health conditions that can result in foot pain, such as:
- Gout: Gout is a form of arthritis, which is characterized by sudden, severe attacks of pain, redness, and tenderness, often in the joint at the base of the big toe. Gout is caused when your body deposits an excess of urate crystals near a joint, most commonly the big toe. Urate crystals can form when you have high levels of uric acid in your blood, which build up, creating sharp, needle-like deposits in the joint or in surrounding tissue and cause pain, inflammation, and swelling. The likelihood of developing gout increases if you are overweight because your body is more likely to increase uric acid production.
- Diabetes: The risk of diabetes increases with weight gain. If you have diabetes, it can cause numbness and tingling in your feet, which is due to nerve damage from a lack of blood flow to your feet, called peripheral neuropathy. Due to loss of feeling in your feet, small cuts can go unnoticed and develop into a serious infection. These infections can cause diabetic ulcers, which left untreated, can result in a serious problem that may require amputation of the foot.
- Peripheral arterial disease: When plaque accumulates in the walls of the arteries in the legs, it causes blood flow to the feet to be reduced. Being overweight is one of the main risk factors for developing peripheral arterial and heart disease.
Foot pain and being overweight is a vicious cycle, because if your feet hurt, exercising can be extremely difficult. If you can’t exercise, then losing weight becomes a much tougher battle.
The first step in reclaiming your pain-free life and working towards a healthy weight is speaking to a podiatrist, who can help treat your foot pain, so you can get back on your feet.