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Heart and Sole: What Your Feet Can Tell You About Cardiac Health

Don’t overlook these tell-tale signs of a heart condition

If your feet could talk, what would they say about you? More specifically, what would they say about your health?

Imagine the cycle of blood flowing through your body — your heart pushing nutrients, oxygen, and all life’s vital ingredients to even the most remote, deepest appendages, then back up, against the force of gravity to repeat the trip over and over again — for a lifetime. What would happen if your heart began to struggle with that important work?

Like any pump-driven system, when the mechanism weakens, the most burdensome areas in the cycle are affected more visibly than others. Feet, being the lowest point in the body, are, thanks to gravity, a canary in the coal mine for cardiovascular health.

The language of your toes

Like the rest of your body, your feet communicate with you through pain and pleasure, as well as swelling. Puffiness in your feet is a symptom with various causes, from the relatively harmless like pregnancy, varicose veins or traveling, to the deathly serious.

A struggling heart can’t produce the power necessary for proper circulation, leading to a buildup of fluids in the feet. Shortness of breath and fatigue accompanied by swollen feet tends to suggest poor heart health. However, these additional symptoms can go unnoticed due to a lack of physical activity caused by the swelling and discomfort.

What is atherosclerosis?

Cholesterol — the bad kind — has the unfortunate habit of building up in the vascular system, sometimes blocking arteries from your heart. Coronary artery disease (CAD), or peripheral artery disease (PAD), is a buildup of cholesterol in the arteries feeding your extremities. Both CAD and PAD are versions of the disease known as “atherosclerosis”.

Some people are at higher risk of developing atherosclerosis than others. Screenings for these build ups are highly recommended for anyone who’s:

These screenings save lives. The early stages of PAD and CAD are often asymptomatic, and by the time symptoms manifest, the blockage is already severe. The screenings are as easy as having your blood pressure checked.

Other symptoms of PAD

While it might be welcome, if you notice a loss of hair on your feet or ankles, it’s probably a smart idea to request a screening. Cold, and/or discolored feet are additional red flags you’ll be grateful for not ignoring.

See an expert

Podiatrists know exactly what to look for. They are knowledgeable of which skin reactions are signs of heart disease, how to tell if the swelling is cardio-related, and what to tell you to keep an eye out for. Dr. Nina Coletta and her dedicated staff hold education in just as high of regard as treatment. If you have questions or concerns about pain or swelling in your feet please don’t hesitate to schedule a screening, it could save your life.

Nina L. Coletta, DPM, PA

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