What your feet could be telling you about your heart

Published: 2012-02-06 08:13:42
Author: Sue Thoms

 If you’re wondering about the health of your heart, try looking at your feet.

The lowly, stepped-on, shoe-squished foot could very well hold clues about the state of your coronary arteries. If your feet show signs of poor circulation – or peripheral arterial disease – your heart could be suffering as well.

The feet may not invoke the same romantic notions as the heart – few sonnets or love songs are written in their honor – but they deserve a little love, podiatrists say.

The Michigan Podiatric Medical Association, as part of February’s heart health emphasis, is urging people to have a simple test to check circulation in their feet for signs of PAD, which occurs when the arteries become narrowed by plaque.

Many people have no symptoms of PAD during the early stages. By the time symptoms are noticeable, the arteries often are significantly blocked.

The classic symptoms of PAD – pain in the legs when walking or at rest – occurs in only 10 percent of the patients, said Dr. Gregory Pellizzon, an interventional cardiologist with Saint Mary’s Health Care. And even those symptoms can be confusing. Patients often wonder if the ache in their legs comes from aging or arthritis.

Some also have symptoms of heart disease, such as shortness of breath and discomfort in the chest, but don’t realize it because the pain in their legs limits their activity.

“It’s really hard sometimes to quantify what is slowing someone down,” he said.

“I think podiatrists are great at picking up on PAD,” Pellizzon added. “They know what to look for in terms of skin changes, leg changes and the signs on their feet. Nine times out of 10, they’re right.”