10 fashion choices that can ruin your health
Teetering on sky-high heels, squeezing into skinny jeans and lugging handbags the weight of a large bowling ball can create painful maladies that may lead to chronic health problems over time. Experts dish about ways to stay stylish without sacrificing your body.
--By Linda Melone for MSN Healthy Living
Also known as cigarette pants, skinny pants and pegs, skinny jeans fit snugly and taper completely at the bottom of the leg. They're often so tight they require a zipper to allow them to fit over the feet. Made for both men and women, skinny jeans can cause a malady called meralgia paresthetica. "It basically occurs over time and involves the compression of superficial nerves that supply sensation to the lateral thighs, causing tingling, pain and numbness," says Dr. Beth Aronson, an obstetrician-gynecologist with the Greater Baltimore Medical Center and a part-time instructor at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. Men who wear skinny pants may end up with a reduced sperm count due to the heat generated, Aronson adds. Choose looser pants or pants with a fabric containing more stretch.
It may be your underwear, not the food at the cocktail reception, that's giving you indigestion. Squeezing into a corsetlike body smoother/shaper (formerly known as a girdle) may smooth lines under that slinky dress but can also contribute to GERD, says Dr. Richard A. Desi, a gastroenterologist with Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore. "It's purely a mechanical issue. Tight-fitting belts, pants, etc., increase pressure on the abdomen and stomach. Stomach contents then have a greater likelihood of refluxing from the stomach and into the esophagus due to this increased pressure." Avoid too-tight belts or undergarments if GERD becomes a problem.
Sure, they elongate your legs, but are towering heels worth the potential foot and knee problems? The higher the heel the greater the risk of stress to the knee, according to a study published in Gait Posture (June 2012) [lm], which found more joint stress from four-inch heels than from lower heels. Plus, high heels cause excess pressure on the front of your foot as your weight shifts from your heel to the toes and balls of your feet, says Dr. Dominic J. Catanese, the director of the podiatric medicine and surgery division in the department of orthopedic surgery at Montefiore Medical Center in Bronx, N.Y. "Crowded toes can lead to the formation of corns and hammertoes. They can also shorten the calf muscle and the Achilles tendon begins to tighten and adapt to that position." To reduce your risk, choose a lower heel (two inches) and a rounded toe to avoid toe crowding, and wear sneakers to commute to and from work, suggests Catanese.
Large hoop or heavy chandelier earrings add glamour to an outfit -- until they catch on a shirt or scarf and end up tearing the earlobe. "We frequently see the result of either a shirt that has snagged on the earring or a child who has grabbed it and torn it partially or totally," says Dr. Joel Schlessinger, a dermatologist based in Omaha, Neb., and the CEO and founder of LovelySkin.com. Simple everyday wear and tear from gravity can also stretch the earlobe piercing and result in an oval hole in the lobe, which can split the earlobe. Schlessinger recommends clips, which are easier to remove and will lead to less traumatic incidents. Also, keep earrings to a "manageable" size and out of the reach of young ones, says Schlessinger.
Ballet flats may seem preferable to high heels, but they come with their own set of potential foot problems. "Ballet flats offer no cushioning or support, which can lead to heel pain and plantar fasciitis," says podiatrist Catanese. The latter refers to an inflammation of the plantar fascia, a thick tendon that connects the heel bone to the toes and creates the arch of the foot. Plantar fasciitis makes walking difficult and painful. Because they also lack support, flip flops can cause the same problem, says Catanese. "If you have great feet and flats and flip flops don't bother you it's fine, but if you have foot pain look for sandals with a contoured arch and a heel cup such as Crocs, which provide more support."
Fur-lined, flat boots
These popular boots can be found in winter and warm weather months alike. The flat sole creates problems similar to those caused by ballet flats. The lack of support in these shoes can lead to plantar fasciitis, tendonitis or stress fractures, says Dr. Jane Andersen, a podiatrist based in Chapel Hill, N.C., and the spokeswoman for the American Podiatric Medical Association. "They should be used on a limited basis and not for walking long distances." Fur-lined boots can also make feet hot and sweaty when worn without socks, which makes them a breeding ground for fungus. "It's difficult to clean the inside of this type of shoe gear, so wear them only in colder months, when your feet are less likely to be sweaty," says Andersen. Or wear them with absorbent socks.
Permanently affixing bling to your skin can bring unwelcome results if you're not careful. Piercings, whether to the ears, nose or elsewhere can lead to infections, especially when they are in covered areas that are close to potentially dirty parts of the body, says dermatologist Schlessinger. "Even piercings on the face or upper body can become infected, and those that go through cartilage (such as on the upper ear) are particularly concerning as cartilage is very easy to infect and very difficult to treat." Reduce your risk of infection by taking these precautions: Choose your artist very carefully and make sure they have a good reputation regarding cleanliness and the use of sterile equipment. In addition, never get a piercing if you have an ongoing infection and avoid swimming and hot tubs for two weeks after you get a piercing, says Schlessinger. If you get an infection, see a doctor immediately.
In today's corporate-casual world you won't find as many neckties as in the past, but those who wear them typically don't wash them often. Touching the tie with contaminated hands can allow for the transfer of germs, says Dr. Philip M. Tierno, Jr., the director of clinical microbiology and immunology at the New York University Langone Medical Center and a member of the Global Hygiene Council. "Eighty percent of all infection is transmitted by direct or indirect contact. Touching a contaminated object such as a necktie is an indirect way to contact germs." You can rid your tie of germs in a number of ways, the simplest of which is by spraying them with a germicidal spray, suggests Tierno, who recommends testing the back of the fabric with the spray first to ensure the fabric holds up to the chemicals. Otherwise, dry cleaning or tossing them in the dryer on a germicidal cycle also works. Regardless, washing your hands thoroughly before eating, drinking or touching your face remains your best protection, says Tierno.
The size of a shoulder bag isn't a problem, but the weight of it can cause stress across the neck, back and shoulders. "A heavy bag may cause a change in body position and posture over time," says Dr. David Geier, an orthopedic surgeon and the director of sports medicine at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC). "This may cause the shoulder and upper back to bend forward, possibly increasing stress to the neck and lower back." If carrying a heavy bag regularly is unavoidable, switch shoulders periodically to more evenly distribute the stress. Or use a backpack that distributes the stress evenly across the back and shoulders instead of isolating it to just one side of the body, says Geier. As for ways to determine if a bag is too heavy, "If you have to question whether or not it's too heavy, it likely is," Geier says.