Leg Problems

Not everyone has flawless legs like Kylie Minogue.  And if you tend to suffer unsightly leg problems, a survey has found that your job could be the culprit. So who is most at risk and how can you have healthier legs.

A recent independent survey in has found that up to 86% of people working in service sectors such as nurses, hairdressers, waiters, retail staff and teachers suffer leg related problems. Why? Because of the 2.6 million retail staff and 573,000 nurses in the UK alone, the average staff member walks 3 miles every day – and the 1.6 million waiters walk the most, averaging 6 miles a day. But walking is a brilliant exercise, so why are so many people complaining of leg problems?

‘It’s the standing around that triggers the majority of problems’ says Mr John Scurr, a consultant Vascular surgeon based at The Middlesex hospital in London ‘Any survey that looks at people such as hairdressers who are on their feet all day, will obviously find a large proportion who suffer leg problems. And this problem is now on the increase in Countries that adopt a typical Western Lifestyle of little exercise and a high fat diet. But I am also seeing an increasing number of patients with varicose and thread veins who sit at a desk all day, including children, in fact I recently operated on an boy of 11 who did virtually no exercise. ’Dr Derek Shrimpton, a nutritional scientist who analysed the survey results says ‘We were surprised at the large numbers of workers who complained of tired, aching, swollen legs or the onset of varicose or thread veins, and yet only a minority seek medical help. We obviously need to get the message across as to what you can do to help yourself

‘How to have healthier legs … using Plants that heal.

For centuries plant extracts such as Butcher’s Broom and Horse Chestnut Seeds (Conkers) have been used to reduce inflammation and swelling associated with leg problems, and science has now validated these ancient remedies. Dr John Wilkinson, head of the Phyto Chemistry Discovery group at Middlesex University in the UK says ‘We have found that saponins, a group of active agents found in the roots and seeds of these plants constrict and strengthen veins, have anti inflammatory properties, and reduce swelling, thus making venous return to the heart more efficient.’ ‘The compounds in these plants are extremely safe and 150mg of dry standardized extract of Butcher’s Broom can be taken internally in capsule form daily (but not during the first 3 months of pregnancy, or by people on blood thinning drugs). It can also be used topically in a cream or gel . Butcher’s Broom is highly effective when taken in isolation, but it’s effects appear to be amplified when combined with Horse Chestnut, Vitamin C, and the flavonoid Rutin.’ All health shops and good chemists worldwide sell Butcher’s Broom (Solgar), or try V-Nal combination Capsules ( £11.45 for 40 capsules) or Cream (£10-45 ) For mail order worldwide call the Nutri Centre in the UK on (0)207 436 5122 or log onto www.nutricentre.com

Exercise and Watch your Weight

Being overweight greatly increases the risk for varicose and thread veins, so watch your weight. Pregnancy, smoking and long term constipation are also common triggers. For those on their feet all day physiotherapist Geraldine Watkins recommends laying on the floor, bending the knees and placing the lower legs on a chair or bed for 15 minutes daily to give the leg valves a rest and encourage excess fluid to be absorbed back into the system. If the leg are swollen then a cold compress can be applied. ‘Also people who walk and stand a lot ‘ she advises ‘ Should wear insoles to support their arches ( £15-£20. From John Bell & Croydon in London on 0207 935 5555 or any good chemists or back shop), avoid heels over 2 inches, and at the first sign of vein problems wear support tights or socks. And if your legs ache, no matter what your job, swimming is the best all round exercise for keeping legs healthy. ’ For those who sit all day Watkins says regular walking, jogging, gardening, rebounding or skipping is vital. But whilst seated she recommends using a D shaped foot rest ( £76-95, from The Back Shop on 0207 935 9120), as bending and circling the feet keeps circulation moving.

Also to sit at one’s desk so that knees are lower than the hips which reduces compression in the arteries and veins in the groin area. Also to avoid wearing tight fitting trousers which adds to compression in the groin and back of knee areas when seated for long periods. ‘At the very least’ Watkins concludes ‘Anyone who spends their day at a desk should get up, stretch and walk around every 30 minutes, if they want to keep their legs looking healthy’.

The Best Foods for Healthy Legs

Bilberries, blueberries, blackberries, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, squash, cherries, apricots, spinach, spring greens and cabbage are all rich in flavonoids such as Rutin and vitamin C which helps to strengthen veins. Rose hips (try Rose Hip Tea) , buckwheat (makes great pancakes) and apple peel contain rutin. Avocadoes, sprouted seeds such as alfalfa, plus eggs, raw wheat germ and unprocessed nuts are rich in Vitamin E which reduce stickiness in the blood. Essential fats found in oily fish, linseeds, sunflower, pumpkin and sesame seeds and their unrefined oils will all help improve blood flow. Garlic, ginger , onions and cayenne pepper aid circulation and help reduce inflammation. To help avoid constipation drink at least 6 glasses of water daily and increase intake of fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains- such as brown rice .

Foods to avoid

Coffee, tea, colas and alcohol all dehydrate the bowel and exacerbate leg problems. Reduce your salt intake which can trigger water retention. Cut down on sugary foods and full fat dairy produce, fatty meats, processed meat pies, cakes and pastries.

A Proper Diagnosis

Finally Dr Scurr says ‘ Many people believe there is little point in having veins treated, thinking they will return. But these days newer diagnostic and treatment techniques are giving good long term and in many cases permanent relief. For further help and information on all aspects of leg and vein problems log onto <*>www.jscurr.com,n<*>