Meet our summer body experts
Dave Wain, MD and podiatrist at Carnation Footcare
Professor Glenn Gibson, professor of food microbiology, University of Reading
Kimby Osbourne, leg health expert at Activa
Rebecca Maxwell, skin cancer screening nurse at The MOLE Clinic
Target toenail trouble
If you have a toenail that’s discoloured or crumbling, you might have a fungal infection. Affecting between three and nine per cent of the population, fungal toenail is more common as you get older, particularly if you have another condition such as diabetes, eczema or psoriasis. “It’s caused by fungi colonising the outer layers of the nail and skin, which can happen as a result of hot, sweaty, cramped conditions (in shoes, for example), or lowered immunity,” says podiatrist Dave Wain. Sometimes, a fungal infection can cause pain and swelling around the nail, but it’s more likely that it will just make you feel self-conscious about flashing your feet in sandals.
“Try antifungal nail paints from your pharmacist or antifungal tablets from your GP,” says Dave. “Effective laser treatment is available at private clinics, but it’s expensive. Be patient with this problem; the nail takes up to nine months to grow out. Once the infection has cleared, keep nails clean with an antibacterial liquid. Try Carnation Healthy Nails, £4.99/14ml.”
Cure cracked heels
Hard, broken skin on heels is unsightly and can also be really painful. “It happens when skin thickens over time, due to excess pressure, then they become drier and eventually crack,” says Dave Wain. “It’s more common as you get older because the heel’s fat pad starts to break down.” You can ignore the problem in winter but flip-flops and sandals expose cracked heels and can aggravate it. “Walking in open sandals or flip-flops puts more pressure on your heels, which can cause skin to break,” says Dave. There’s also a risk of infection as bacteria gets in through broken skin.
Dave recommends smoothing on a rehydrating cream with a high urea content twice daily. “You should see an improvement in a few days. Try Carnation Cracked Heel Cream, £3.05/25g. Severe cracks that bleed, or very thick skin should be treated by a podiatrist.”
If your legs always seem to be blotched with bruises, you may feel reluctant to put them on show – which can be limiting when it’s too hot for trousers or tights. Unfortunately, as you get older your skin becomes thinner and the tissues underneath more fragile. This means that when you knock your leg while you’re making the bed, or bash your knee against a table, the capillaries beneath the skin break more easily, causing bleeding which shows through the skin as a bruise.
The best way to minimise a bruise is to limit the bleeding by cooling the area. Try pressing a cold flannel or bag of frozen peas wrapped in a towel onto the area, holding it there for ten minutes.
“Varicose veins affect one in three of us in the UK and can be painful as well as unsightly,” says Kimby Osbourne, leg health expert at Activa. “They are more common from middle age as the veins tend to weaken. Although not seen as dangerous, they may affect your confidence.”
“Try not to stand or sit for too long,” says Kimby. “Put your feet up when you can and move as much as possible to help boost circulation. Try simple exercises such as rolling each ankle ten times.” Compression stockings and socks will help, too. “Compression hosiery helps boost circulation and prevents feet and ankles swelling,” says Kimby. Try Activa Class 1 Support Socks, (£14.50) from www.activahealthcare.co.uk or call 0845 060 6707.
Beat the bloat
"Levels of the good gut bacteria needed for healthy digestion decline with age,” says Professor Glenn Gibson, professor of food microbiology at the University of Reading. You may find you’re more likely to experience bloating and other digestive problems which can make you feel self-conscious.
Avoid fizzy drinks and foods known to cause wind, such as beans, broccoli, onions and cabbage (though make sure you still get your five-a-day). Try cutting down on cereal fibre, found in wholegrain bread, and breakfast cereals such as Weetabixnd All-Bran, particularly if you’ve been diagnosed with IBS. “If you’re over 50, it’s a good idea to take a probiotic, which is a supplement containing good bacteria, and a prebiotic, which is the fertiliser your gut needs to grow the bacteria,” says Glenn. We like Bimuno Original Prebiotic Powder, £8.99/30 sachets (www.bimuno.com) and Bio-Kult, £14.95/30 caps (www.bio-kult.com) both available from health food stores. See your GP if you’ve had persistent bloating for three weeks or more as, very rarely, it can be a sign of a serious condition such as bowel or ovarian cancer.
Keep your cool
Hot flushes don’t just affect women at menopause – according to a study from King’s College, London, more than half of women are still experiencing them at 65. The bad news is that hot weather can aggravate them.
Avoid spicy food and alcohol, which can trigger flushes. Keep yourself as cool as possible by wearing natural fibres such as cotton and silk, and go for thin layers you can peel off if you feel yourself heating up. And take up yoga: it can help ease hot flushes, according to a US study.
Protect your skin
Rebecca Maxwell, skin cancer screening nurse at The MOLE Clinic, London (www.themoleclinic.co.uk), has these tips for staying safe in the sun:
Choose the right SPF
“The stronger the sunshine, the higher the SPF you should use to protect your skin. Always look for a five-star UVA rating and combine this with protective clothing (sunhat and sunglasses) and seek the shade between 11am-3pm.”
You need approximately one teaspoon’s worth of sunscreen per limb. “Most bottles are only 200ml so it should last just a few days if applied and re-applied properly. Remember to apply it to the back of the neck, ears, tops of shoulders and backs of arms and legs – they are easy to forget,” says Rebecca.
Monitor your moles
“If you’re over 50, you need to be particularly vigilant as melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer, is linked to accumulated UV exposure over the years. In fact, the number of melanoma cases in those aged 50 years and older has quadrupled in the past three decades. For women, melanoma is found on the legs in almost four in ten cases, followed by over two in ten on the arms, the areas most likely to be exposed in sunny weather. If you notice a new mole, or one that has changed shape, colour or size, report it to your GP.”
There's more great health advicce in every issue of Yours magazine, out every fortnight on a Tuesday.