18:03 22 April 2010
The weather is hotting up and the legs are set to make a reapppearance. And while many of us worry about wobbly tums and fret over our faces, we often take our legs for granted - until something goes wrong.
But the more we look after them the healthier they'll be well into old age - and you're never too young or old to start.
Pep up your pins with these handy hints for keeping them in great shape.
Follow our plan and you'll have the perfect pins you'll be proud to parade in short shorts all summer!
Staying active boosts circulation and will help prevent problems like varicose veins and heavy, aching legs.
Take plenty of long walks and make sure you wear supportive trainers, which make the walking action more effective at pumping the blood back up your legs. Also avoid standing still too much, to stop pressure in the veins building up.
When possible, try to keep your legs raised above the level of your bottom when you're sitting down, which encourages blood to flow back up.
Beat bad habits
As ever, smoking is the worst - it can be damaging to leg health as it affects your circulation. Many smokers develop a condition called intermittent claudication - cramping in the leg when walking caused by lack of oxygen to muscles there.
Heavy drinking is another no-no. One or two glasses of wine a day is beneficial for the cardiovascular system, but more than this can encourage blood platelets to become stickier, impeding their passage through blood vessels and increasing the likelihood of varicose veins.
Include plenty of vitamin C and substances called bioflavonoids, as these strengthen the walls of blood vessels, protecting them from the weakness and bulging associated with varicose veins.
The best sources of both are dark red berries, such as cherries and blackcurrants - tinned is fine - and citrus fruits, especially grapefruit.
Avoid high-fat, high-sugar foods, which up your chances of obesity. As well as putting more pressure on the veins, being overweight is a risk factor for type 2 diabetes, which is linked with poor circulation in the legs.
It can also make you more vulnerable to cellulitis, an infection of the skin and tissues beneath it, which most commonly occurs in the lower legs, causing pain, redness and swelling.
Have herbal help
Lots of research has found red vine leaf extract is very helpful for reducing swelling linked to poor circulation, and helping to prevent varicose veins.
The herb ginkgo biloba is also useful for boosting circulation, and many people take it before a long flight to reduce the chances of a deep vein thrombosis forming in the leg.
Prone to puffy ankles? It could be down to water retention, so swap tea and coffee for diuretic fennel and nettle herbal teas (from health food stores), which help flush out excess fluid.
Smooth your skin
Legs are prone to dry skin, a mottled appearance and. But all of these can be tackled quickly with a bit of attention.
Skin brushing is great, especially on the inner knee and outer thigh, which are prone to holding cellulite. It boosts the lymph, which helps carry toxins out of the body, as well as helping to improve circulation and removing dry skin.
Stretch marks are another common problem for skin on the thighs, caused by the breakdown of underlying collagen as we age. Keep skin supple by moisturising with body oil - even olive or almond oil can be helpful.
Noticed tiny thread veins on your legs? These are blown-out capillaries - if you're self-conscious about them, laser therapy, from cosmetic surgery clinics, is the only truly effective option.
Support hosiery can be a real boon to leg health. It maintains optimum circulation, with graduated pressure massaging the ankle, calf and thigh, which improves blood flow back up to the heart.
As well as easing aching legs and helping to prevent thread and varicose veins, support hosiery can be helpful for boosting circulation on long flights, protecting against the damage to veins that can be linked with DVT.
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