Our feet are something we often take for granted. We often forget how much we rely on our feet until we start experiencing pain. Foot pain can range from an uncomfortable inconvenience to being unable to walk, but it is how the body lets us know there is something wrong. One lesser-known connection about our health is between the feet and heart, specifically heart disease. First, here is a quick explanation of what is going on inside the body with a type of heart disease most closely related to our feet.
Coronary Artery Disease
One type of heart disease is called coronary artery disease (CAD) condition where the arteries in the heart become narrowed. When you have CAD, this increases your risk for also developing another form of heart disease known as peripheral artery disease, (PAD). This occurs when the arteries in the extremities and feet narrow. PAD is common in people who have coronary artery disease.
Whenever arteries narrow and harden, it is from plaque building up inside the arteries. The main contributors to plaque are fat and cholesterol. As more fat and cholesterol build up inside the body, the more they line the arteries, creating blockage and inflammation. Eventually, plaque will break off and completely block the blood flow. In the heart- this creates a heart attack… but when it happens in the extremities, it can cause more pain, numbness, and more. Eventually, this can lead to amputations to parts of the feet.
Watching for Signs
Even though it is hard to know how much build-up may be on your arterial walls, there are signs that can indicate potential problems in your legs or feet. These may include:
- Thinning or absent hair growth
- Dry, thinning skin
- Unexplained atrophy (decreased muscle size)
- Changes in toenails, such as thickening, discoloration, or brittleness
- Cold, numb feet and toes
- Wounds that heal slowly
The most serious sign of PAD is pain or cramping in the legs and feet when walking even short distances. In the early stages, this will usually go away when resting and then come back with activity. If the pain persists even when resting, it may be more advanced.
Testing for PAD is simple. Usually, the screening is performed with blood pressure cuffs on the legs, feet, and arms to measure arterial pressure and blood flow. The machine readings will indicate if there is a decreased amount of blood flow and a potential problem. Then, your Advanced Foot & Ankle podiatrist can help you to understand and treatment options.
However, this is not the only test available. Here at Advanced Foot & Ankle, we offer another type of screening tool called the QuantaFlo PAD test. It is a fast and simple test that can be done right in the doctor’s office, much like having your blood pressure measured.
- The QuantaFlo sensor is placed first on your left toe, then your right toe, then your left finger, then your right finer, each time for 15 seconds
- During the test, the QuantaFlo software analyzes the blood flow in each of your legs and arms
- Your doctor will review the QuantaFlo test results and let you know what your results mean in relation to the presence of peripheral vascular disease.
There is no pain or discomfort during this kind of test. To read more details on it, please read this QuantaFlo brochure from the technology section of our website.
How to Prevent PAD
Go in for regular exams with your primary care specialist. Eat a healthy diet with lots of fruit and vegetables and keep sodium, sugar, and saturated fats to a minimum. Exercise five days a week for at least 30 minutes. Don’t smoke. If you have a family history of heart disease or PAD, it is especially important to watch for warning signs.
If you are experiencing foot pain or are just concerned you may have PAD, visit a podiatrist as soon as possible. The doctors at Advanced Foot and Ankle Center have the experience to help treat whatever foot or ankle problems you are having. They can check your feet by performing screening tests and help you put your mind at ease. From St George to Ogden, we have several locations throughout Utah.