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Shoe shopping: factors to consider

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As you get older, your body changes. Consequently, the skin on your feet is likely to lose elasticity and your toenails will probably thicken. In some cases, the toes can become deformed. To help avoid discomfort falls, and injuries, it’s important to choose well-made shoes that provide optimal comfort and support. Here are a few criteria to keep in mind the next time you go shoe shopping.

• The size. Shoes that are too big for your feet increase your risk of tripping. If your shoes are too small, they’ll cause pain and discomfort. To find the perfect size, slide your toes to the front of the shoe and make sure you can fit one finger behind your heel.

• The fastenings. While laces can be adjusted to provide a secure fit, they should be avoided if you have trouble bending over. For people who have mobility issues, footwear with Velcro or similar fastenings is preferable.

• The soles. Wearing shoes with flat, supportive soles can make it easier to feel the uneven ground, adapt your gait, and maintain your balance. You can also reduce your risk of falling by opting for a pair with non-slip soles.

• The toe box. Shoes with a rounded toe box will provide sufficient space for your toes to spread out, which can help you keep your balance. Additionally, check to make sure your shoes are high enough in the front to avoid squishing your toes, especially if you have a claw toe or a similar condition.

• The back. It’s best to choose footwear with a closed heel to ensure your ankle has enough support. This will also reduce the risk of your shoes slipping off while you walk and thereby causing you to hurt your feet or stumble.

If you need shoes that provide custom support, speak with a podiatrist about orthopedic footwear.

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Leg pain could be a wake-up call for your cardiovascular health

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Everyone gets a charley horse now and again while walking. But what if you experience a painful cramping sensation more often than normal, or even every time you walk? Claudication – the medical term for leg pain while walking – is a common symptom of peripheral artery disease (PAD), an often undetected and sometimes dangerous condition, according to the Harvard Heart Letter.

PAD occurs when fatty deposits narrow and clog arteries outside the heart, most often in the legs. While some people have mild or no symptoms, cramping in the arms or legs that starts during physical activity and disappears after a few minutes of rest occurs in some PAD patients, according to the Mayo Clinic. Pain may also occur in the buttock, hip, thigh, or calf, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Other symptoms of peripheral artery disease include:

-Muscle weakness

-Hair loss
-Smooth, shiny skin
-Skin that is cool to the touch, especially if it occurs with pain while walking that subsides after stopping
-Decreased or absent pulses in the feet
-Persistent sores in the legs or feet
-Cold or numb toes

Peripheral artery disease is often a sign of fatty deposits in other areas of the body, which can reduce blood flow to the heart and brain, according to the Mayo Clinic. Contact your physician if you are experiencing these symptoms and over age 65; over age 50 and have a history of diabetes or smoking; or under age 50, but have diabetes and other risk factors like obesity or high blood pressure.

According to the CDC, a doctor may use a variety of tests and imaging techniques to diagnose this issue. Treatment may include aspirin or other antiplatelet medications, as well as lifestyle changes like tobacco cessation and exercise. In some cases, surgery may be necessary.

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High-tech mental health care: Is there an app for that?

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Nearly one in five American adults lives with a mental illness–about 51.5 million people in 2019, according to the National Institutes of Mental Health. And among those adults, approximately half do not receive treatment for their illnesses, according to Mental Illness Policy Org.

For many Americans, lack of access to providers-—whether it’s the cost, insurance coverage, or no available providers in the community–dictates whether they can seek treatment, according to a 2018 survey from the National Council on Behavioral Health.

Tech and the startup world are rushing in to fill the gap with virtual behavioral health care, with services including therapy, coaching, and even startups that prescribe and ship medications.

According to Fierce Healthcare, the COVID-19 pandemic motivated investors to pour huge sums of money into behavioral health startups as locked-down Americans looked for virtual mental health care.

The top dog among mental health startups in 2020 is Talkspace, according to The Motley Fool. Talkspace is a mental health subscription service that matches users with licensed therapists via video, audio or text, and works with some insurance carriers.

The wellness app Calm, founded in 2012, promises to help users meditate, unwind, and maybe even improve sleep, according to Quartz. Downloads spiked as the COVID-19 pandemic gained steam, and one major health insurer made it free to all members.

Brightside, a telemedicine service that specializes in mental health care, provides therapy and medication services to users in some states via a network of providers, according to The Motley Fool.

According to the Brightside website, medical insurance is not currently accepted.

While telehealth and virtual treatment options offered by mental health startups may be a welcome boost for Americans suffering from mental illness, some experts say they’re not appropriate for everyone. According to Cronkite News/Arizona Public Broadcasting, mental health experts say that some therapeutic techniques are not easy to replicate through video chat, and not all patients respond well to the format.

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Happy lights take the gloom out of winter

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With short days and fewer options to socialize this winter, more people than ever may find themselves in need of a boost to help with lagging energy or even depression during the dark months.

Many people swear by their “happy lights,” a whimsical term for light therapy. Used as a way to treat the seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and other conditions, light therapy involves sitting near a device called a light therapy box for a period of time each day. It’s also known as bright light therapy or phototherapy

The light therapy box gives off a bright light that mimics sunshine. The Mayo Clinic says it is thought to affect brain chemicals linked to mood and sleep. The boxes may ease SAD symptoms and help with other types of depression, sleep disorders, and other conditions like jet lag or dementia.

A few studies have demonstrated benefits for seniors whose sleep patterns have become disrupted and in seniors who were diagnosed with depression.

Light therapy boxes should filter out UV light, so look for one that emits as little as possible. They are available in a variety of intensities, measured in units called lux. During a light therapy session, you sit or work near the light box placed 16 to 24 inches away for about 20 to 30 minutes a day. Most people use them shortly after getting up in the morning.

The Mayo Clinic recommends talking with your doctor before using one and specifically recommends that those diagnosed with bipolar disorder consult a physician first, as a light box may trigger mania in these patients.

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5 signs you need new glasses

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As you get older, your vision changes. This means that if you’ve been wearing the same eyewear for years, you’re likely due for an upgrade. Here are five signs that it’s time to get new glasses.

1. Your vision is a little blurry
If distant objects appear to be out of focus, or if you struggle to make out the words on a page even with your glasses on, you likely need a stronger prescription.

2. You get frequent headaches

Even if you haven’t noticed a change in your vision, your eyes might be straining to see clearly. This can lead to eye fatigue and headaches.

3. Your eyes often feel achy
Tired, watery, itchy, and dry eyes are all signs that your eyes might be working harder than normal to compensate for an outdated prescription.

4. You need to squint to see
If you have the correct eyewear prescription, you shouldn’t need to squint to see clearly. While squinting improves the focus and clarity of your vision, it also causes eye strain.

5. Your glasses are damaged
Scratches on your lenses can impede your vision and lead to eye strain. Additionally, the arms of your glasses can stretch over time, causing them to no longer fit properly.

The best way to ensure you have the right prescription is to schedule an eye exam with your optometrist at least once a year.

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Women’s Health: Questions to ask your doctor at every age

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As you get older, your body changes, and your health-care needs evolve. That’s why it’s important to speak with your doctor on a regular basis. Here are a few questions to ask at your next appointment.

In your 20s
• Which methods of contraception would you recommend for me?
• How do I know if I’m at risk of developing cervical cancer?

• Which sexually transmitted and blood-borne infections (STBBIs) should I be tested for?

In your 30s
• What can I do to increase my chances of having a healthy pregnancy?
• How can I maintain a healthy weight and blood pressure level?
• What would you recommend if I’m having trouble sleeping because of stress?

In your 40s
• Should I be screened for diabetes and high cholesterol?
• How can I prevent bladder leaks?
• Am I in perimenopause if my menstrual cycle is irregular, and I get hot flashes?

In your 50s
• How often should I have a mammogram?
• Should I get the shingles vaccine or any other type of shot?
• What would you recommend to relieve my menopause symptoms?

In your 60s and older
• Am I at risk of developing osteoporosis?
• Should I take calcium or vitamin D supplements?
• Do I need to get the flu shot if I’m in good health?

Regardless of your age, talking openly and regularly with your doctor is crucial to taking charge of your health.

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In 2021, commit to SELF-CARE

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In 2020, the pandemic turned our lives upside down and demanded that we all make sacrifices for the greater good. Now, many months later, you may be feeling exhausted from the colossal effort you made.

Nonetheless, 2021 marks the start of a new year and offers you the chance to hit the reset button. This year, consider making self-care a top priority. Resolve to indulge in all things that allow you to breathe deeply, replenish your energy, and rejuvenate your spirit.

After all, whatever challenges need to be faced in the months to come, you’ll be better equipped to meet them if you’re relaxed, well-rested, and connected to the people and things that bring you joy. This year, promise to put YOU at the top of your to-do list.

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