David Armstrong on Diabetes, Foot Health and Exercise

Podiatric surgeon explains importance of exercise, good shoes, foot checkups for diabetes patients

In honor of Foot Health Month, we’ve asked members of the Vionic Innovation Lab to share their observations and expertise. 

Trained as a podiatric surgeon, David G. Armstrong, DPM, MD, PhD, is recognized as a world leader in diabetic foot care. He is professor of surgery at the University of Arizona in Tucson. He is also director of the University’s Southern Arizona Limb Salvage Alliance (SALSA). 

Over the past decade, for the first time in history, more people died from non-infectious diseases than from all the plagues in the world combined. These diseases are ones we hear about every day– cardiovascular disease, cancer and diabetes. They’re all inexorably linked with one another and, if you think about it, they’re all, as my colleague Steve Jones has put it, “diseases of decay.”

That third disease of decay, diabetes, is particularly problematic. Just as HIV can progress to AIDS, there exists a “pre-diabetes” condition that few people know about. In fact, now some 86 million people in the USA alone have pre-diabetes. That’s the equivalent population of 30 out of the 50 states!

With all of this heavy information, the good news is that there is one common therapy that can make a massive difference in fighting “decay.” That’s to simply find a few minutes– 30 minutes— if you can– to just move. Doing that alone has tremendous benefits for cardiovascular, metabolic and even cognitive health. I can’t think of any single prescription that can serve to potentially simultaneously improve insulin sensitivity, reduce depression and improve memory and circulation. Such a drug would be a blockbuster. That blockbuster is sitting right under your shoelaces.

If you have diabetes or if you’ve been told you have pre-diabetes, see your foot specialist and generalist before embarking on your exercise program. Check your feet every day. If you see something that is unusual from the previous day– particularly redness, a callus or blister– then tell your foot specialist promptly. When you see your general doctor, “knock your socks off.” That will get him or her prompted to give your feet a closer look!

The key thing to keep in mind is that these wonderful extremities of ours take a terrific beating. The least we can do is to be kind to them. The right shoes coupled with the right insoles and socks can mean the difference between a healthy workout and walking wounded.

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