Healthy Feet Help Make For a Healthy Heart
As February and heart health month ends, patients here in Columbus have probably been hearing a lot about keeping their heart healthy from all of their healthcare providers. As a podiatrist I want my patients to know that their feet are a key indicator of their overall health, and can often play an integral role in their heart’s health!
A recent study by the American Podiatric Medical Association has found that 72% of Americans say that foot pain is preventing them from exercising. These foot issues preventing exercise are a huge setback that needs to be resolved for anyone looking to lose weight and improve their overall health. Orthotics, sometimes known as “arch supports” can be very helpful in relieving pain commonly experienced while exercising. An example of a common cause of pain in runners and other athletes is plantar fasciitis. Orthotics can help to combat the pain of plantar fasciitis which is related to inflammation of the ligament that stretches from the heel across the bottom of the foot, the plantar aponeurosis. Being able to exercise comfortably and without foot pain should be a goal for all patients visiting a doctor of podiatric medicine.
The feet should be examined to check for signs of heart disease. Swelling in the foot and ankle, called edema, is abnormal and can be a sign of congestive heart failure. When the heart is weakened and cannot pump as strongly as it should, blood will pool in the lower parts of the body, especially the foot and ankle. While this swelling can be a sign of heart disease, it can also indicate many other ailments including trauma, insect bites, medications and other circulatory problems such as venous stasis. Patients should try to relieve swelling by elevating the legs above the heart when possible, applying mild pressure with support stockings and possible trying a low salt diet to reduce the amount of fluid being held in the body. A podiatrist should be consulted if swelling of the feet persists, is painful or worsens.
It is also important when dealing with patients who have already had heart problems to be aware of possible implications in the foot of their medications and treatments. For example, congestive heart failure can cause swelling, but blood pressure lowering drugs often taken by heart patients can also cause swelling. Some drugs, such as Lisinopril, which is used to treat high blood pressure and heart failure has an unexpected effect in the foot. It can not only cause swelling in the foot but can also rarely cause cases of gout. Gout is when the breakdown products of amino acids from proteins accumulate in a joint, typically the joint at the base of the big toe. A “gouty attack” is very painful and often occurs at night with the affected joint being tender, red and swollen.
It is important to always keep in mind that your foot health is a key component in having total health. Heart health and foot health are surprisingly intertwined and without healthy feet it can be difficult to achieve a healthy heart!